The Aberdeen Wings, proud members of the North American Hockey League (NAHL), have announced that forward Cory Ward has committed to play NCAA Division I hockey for Bemidji State University of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA).
Ward, 18, is in his second season with the Wings, where he currently leads the team in scoring this season with 32 points in 24 games played. In his rookie year last season, the forward from Las Vegas, Nevada, led the Wings in scoring with 57 points in 58 games played, including 32 goals, which ranked 8th in the NAHL.
“Most of all, I think playing junior hockey in the NAHL has helped me grow as a person,” said Ward. “On the ice, you realize quickly how much of a complete player you have to be to get to the next level, but you also deal with the off the ice things like training, travel, living on your own and being accountable to your team and your teammates.”
Last season, Ward took part in the first of two NAHL Top Prospects Tournaments held in Boston, Massachusetts, where he helped lead his team to the Top Prospects title with two points in three games. At the end of last season, Ward was named to the NAHL All-Rookie team, recognizing his incredible breakout season in the league.
“Cory has been incredible for us in his time here,” said Wings head coach Pete Sauer. “He is a team leader and has been a great role model for fans and his teammates, with a great demeanor on and off the ice. I am excited because it is a big commitment for our team, our league and City of Aberdeen. He is just the kind of player and person you are happy to see succeed and get an opportunity like this.”
“We are very fortunate to be playing in a great situation in Aberdeen," said Ward. "I think we have the most supportive and passionate fan base in the league. It is a great place to play junior hockey and I am glad to have been a part of it since the team has been there. We want to bring them a Championship and I think this year's team has that capability.”
Ward will be heading to a Bemidji State program which is one of the rising forces in college hockey. The Beavers qualified for the 2009 NCAA Division I Men's Ice Hockey Tournament, where the team defeated number one seed Notre Dame in a first round upset. The team later defeated Cornell to advance to its first Division I Frozen Four appearance, but then lost to Miami University in the semifinals.
“I think Bemidji State not only has established itself as a program who not only has a winning tradition in the NCAA, but who also does a great job of advancing hockey players and that was one of the main reasons I decided to commit there,” said Ward. “I have a goal to play beyond the NCAA and they have really help facilitate that for their players.”
However, the NAHL and now the NCAA may be just the start for Ward. Sauer said the Toronto Maple Leafs, Phoenix Coyotes and New Jersey Devils have been to Aberdeen in recent weeks to scout Ward. Earlier in October, Ward is one of 11 North American Hockey League players to be recognized as players to watch by the National Hockey League's Central Scouting Bureau.