Less than a week after the 2008 Phantoms Hockey Showcase ended, the rewards are already paying off, as the Mahoning Valley Phantoms announced this week that first-year forward Grant Blakey has verbally committed to attend Mercyhurst College for the 2010-11 season.
Blakey, 18, a native of Canton, Mich., visited the campus recently and said that he was impressed with what the school had to offer.
“They are relatively close to home, they have a nice school, they’ve got a good hockey team and I like their facilities,” Blakey said. “It’s a small school, but the campus is very nice and I think I’ll like the small school atmosphere.”
“Their assistant coach (Brian Burke) was my midget coach, so I know him really well, and coach (Bobby) Ferraris is the one that took me around campus and he seems like a nice guy.”
Mercyhurst College is located in Erie, Pa., in the northwestern corner of the state. Blakey will join former Phantoms goaltender Ryan Zapolski and current Phantoms forward Kurt Washnock when he joins the Lakers squad in three seasons.
“Coach (Rick) Gotkin has a great record and has really been a pioneer for that program and built that program,” said Phantoms coach-GM Bob Mainhardt on his relationship with the Lakers’ coaching staff.
Although the Lakers (7-14-3) are currently fourth in the Atlantic Hockey conference, the program has enjoyed resounding success since Gotkin took over the reigns. The hockey team is 354-232-42 since the 1988-1989 season.
“Mercyhurst has done a great job of getting some top-notch hockey players in there and have proven that they can make guys into great college athletes and push them beyond college as well,” said Mainhardt.
“Because of our close proximity, we hope to strengthen our relationship with them. Coach Ferraris and Coach Burke are both great assistant coaches and we have a great relationship with them already.”
So far in his first season with the Phantoms, Blakey has accumulated 14 goals and 16 assists in 37 games, and has been a major contributor alongside Derek Graham and Alden Hirschfeld on the power play.
“He has really fit in and been a dynamic player for us,” said Mainhardt on what Blakey has brought to the Phantoms this year. “Every situation that we have asked him to be in, he has excelled at. He’s been a great player for us all year so far.”
In addition to Washnock, Blakey is the eighth current Phantom to have committed to a Division I school, joining Graham (Ferris State), Hirschfeld (Miami-Ohio), Eric Ringel (Notre Dame), Trent Bonnett (Bentley), Scott Moser (Canisius) and Miles Winter (Quinnipiac).
Blakey, along with the other seven current players to commit, will join a group of 45 former Phantoms that have moved on to play college hockey in the team’s five years.