As the team gears up for its second North American Hockey League (NAHL) season, the Odessa Jackalopes announced Friday that three players from Odessa’s first NAHL roster have committed to extend their hockey careers with NCAA schools, joining Connor Hellebuyck (UMass-Lowell) and Willie Faust (Army) as members of the Jackalopes’ inaugural alumni class.
Forwards Josh Obregon, Darren Lapic and Ryan Doucet have all made verbal commitments, Lapic and Obregon to Gustavus Adolphus College and Johnson & Wales University, respectively, starting with the 2012-13 season and Doucet to the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado, beginning with the 2013-14 season.
A 6’4” winger from San Jose, California, Doucet joined the Jackalopes in early February 2012, following a trade-deadline swap with the Jacks’ NAHL South Division rivals, the Topeka RoadRunners. In 21 combined regular season and playoff games with Odessa, Doucet tallied ten goals and 15 total points to go along with a plus-five rating and a spot on the Jacks’ top line alongside leading scorers Lawrence Cornellier and Jalen Krogman. As a player at Air Force, Doucet will square off in conference play against former Odessa captain Faust and the Army Black Knights, fellow combatants of the Falcons’ in the Atlantic Hockey Conference.
“I give the Jacks a lot of credit for being open to my strengths and my game,” said Doucet. “The Jackalopes gave me a chance to showcase my best assets, my size, my scoring ability, and that openness led to me making this commitment.” Doucet’s 2013 commitment means that not only will the 19 year-old power forward enter the 2012-13 season with his future plans already laid, but also that he will be returning to west Texas in July to rejoin the Jackalopes, this time as a key cog in Head Coach Paul Gillis’ offense from day one. “Ryan’s a big, strong guy and he did very well for us down the stretch last season,” said Gillis, “I really think he’s going to be a big, big part of our team next year and have a very strong season.”
Meanwhile, former Jackalopes winger Darren Lapic is returning to his home state of Minnesota to continue his playing career in St. Peter, Minnesota with the Golden Gusties of Gustavus Adolphus College. Located just 30 miles from his hometown of New Prague and a Division-3 member of the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC), Gustavus Adolphus offered Darren not only the opportunity to take the next step in both his career and life, but also to reunite with his older brother Tyler, who will be transferring from the University of Wisconsin to play alongside Darren for Gustavus in 2012-13.
“Playing college hockey has always been my dream and to get to do that and get back into going to school and thinking about life after hockey is a great feeling,” says Lapic, “After a season in Odessa with the way the organization treated me and prepared me, I think I’m ready for it.” In his second NAHL season in 2011-12, Lapic scored six goals and earned 16 total points in 64 combined regular season and playoff games, en route to claiming the 2011-12 “Rick Gasser Ironman” Award as one of only three Odessa players to appear in every contest in the campaign.
Omaha, Nebraska native Josh Obregon is also headed for a career in Division-3 college hockey, as the high-scoring Odessa centerman has made a verbal commitment to play for Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference Northeast (ECAC-NE) member Johnson and Wales in Providence, Rhode Island beginning in 2012-13. A major part of Odessa’s offensive attack following his acquisition in late November 2011 from the Corpus Christi IceRays, Obregon finished 2011-12 with more goals than any other Jackalopes player (18) and Obregon’s 31 points were the third most among Odessa skaters in the 2011-12 regular season.
“It feels so good to make my choice,” says Obregon, “Playing college hockey speaks for itself, it’s a great feeling.” A veteran of multiple junior hockey programs, Obregon credits the Jackalopes staff, professional organization and the team’s commitment to player development as major reasons he’s continuing his career in college. “The Jacks are first class…they way they treated us [players] on and off the ice and the concepts of the coaching staff…they [Head Coach Paul Gillis and Assistant Coach Matt Cressman] taught me things about hockey that I’d never known.”