To Sean O’Rourke, Ferris State University’s appearance in the NCAA Division I Frozen Four is icing on the cake.
The Fairbanks Ice Dogs and North American Hockey League (NAHL) defenseman had been interested in attending classes and playing hockey for the university in Big Rapids, Mich., long before the Bulldogs advanced to the Division I national semifinals on Thursday, April 5 in Tampa, Fla.
O’Rourke verbally committed Tuesday to Ferris State and it’s a bonus for the Ice Dogs blueliner that he’ll get to watch the broadcast of his future program against Union College (N.Y.) in the Frozen Four opener in the Tampa Bay Times Forum.
“They came to me a few weeks ago and it happened pretty quickly after they started talking to me,” O’Rourke, during a telephone interview Tuesday night, said of conversations he had with Ferris State assistant coach Drew Famulak. Last month, O'Rourke played for team West in front of Famulak and several other hundreds of scouts at the NAHL Top Prospects Tournament in Troy, Michigan.
“I know it’s a great program, and going to college and playing hockey is something I’ve wanted to do all my life,” O’Rourke added. “It was a pretty easy decision for me. When they made the (scholarship) offer, I jumped all over it.”
The 20-year-old from Alta Loma, California, leads Ice Dogs defensemen and is fifth in overall team scoring heading into the regular-season ending North American Hockey League West Division series against the Dawson Creek Rage of British Columbia at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday in the Big Dipper Ice Arena.
O’Rourke has contributed eight goals and 34 assists for 42 points in 47 games and he has a plus-minus rating of +19 in his third season with the team.
“He’s a quiet leader that plays real loudly,” Ice Dogs head coach Trevor Stewart said Thursday by phone. “He’s tough, he’s smart, he’s got a real good skill set, and he’s a big part of the reason for the Ice Dogs’ success over the past few seasons.”
In O’Rourke’s first season, the Ice Dogs reached the championship game of the Robertson Cup Tournament, and in his second season, they captured the title.
O’Rourke plans to relax and enjoy the broadcast of the Frozen Four opener rather than analyze the systems that he may be playing with Ferris State, starting this coming season.
“It’s going to be fun to watch. I don’t want to be looking for anything too crazy; I’m just going to be rooting on them and just being a fan,” he said with a laugh.. “I’ll worry about Ferris State’s systems when I get there.”
Ice Dogs general manager Rob Proffitt is happy for O’Rourke committing to Ferris State, which captured the Central Collegiate Hockey Association regular-season title, was ranked No. 1 in the USCHO.com Poll during the regular season and received at an-large berth into the NCAA Tournament. The Bulldogs advanced to the Frozen Four after winning in the Midwest Regional in Green Bay, Wis., starting with a 2-1 semifinal victory Friday against Denver and a title victory Saturday against Cornell by the same score.
“They’ve been known for getting kids who have been overlooked for whatever reason,” Proffitt said of the Bulldogs, who have seven players this season who are North American Hockey League alumni.
“That’s a testament to their coaching staff and its ability to turn over rocks and find those diamonds in the rough,” he continued. “They turned one over here and found another in O’Rourke.”
Read the rest of the story from Danny Martin and the News-Miner here.