By Jeremiah Bartz, Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman
The Alaska Avalanche have discovered a knack for developing Division I blueliners. The Palmer-based Junior A hockey franchise of the North American Hockey League (NAHL) delivered a pair of defenseman to DI programs last spring, and recently added another to the list.
Alaska captain Joe Schmitz has committed to the University of Connecticut and will play for the Division I Huskies next season.
“It still hasn’t set in,” Schmitz said after scoring a power-play goal during win over Wenatchee last Friday. “It’s one of those things, I started playing hockey when I was 4 and my goal was always to play Division I hockey. With hard work and support from my parents, coaches, teammates, growing up all the way from little mini mites to high school to now juniors. It’s been quite a ride and it feels good to finally make a dream come true.”
Schmitz joins former Alaska teammates Jake Williams (American International College) and Dan Senkbeil (North Dakota) as Avalanche blueliners who have committed to DI programs within the last eight months.
Throughout his time with the North American Hockey League franchise, Avs coaches have believed Schmitz was destined to skate to the DI level.
“For sure, I definitely think he’s a DI guy,” Alaska head coach Corey Millen said earlier this season.
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