Arizona natives Amaya, Storjohann each decide on NCAA Division III paths
Maybe it’s ironic the Kirkland Lake team in the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League (NOJHL) is named the Gold Miners.
After all, not only did the team have a pair of Arizona natives on the roster in 2016-17, but both have committed to play NCAA Division III hockey next season.
Ashton Amaya, a Gilbert native who was Kirkland Lake’s captain last year, has decided on Aurora University, located just outside Chicago, while Anthem native Alex Storjohann is off to play in New York for Cortland State University.
Both players are 1996 birth years and exhausting their junior hockey eligibility after the season meant each had to work even harder to get the college shot.
“The process was easy committing to Aurora,” said Amaya. “The coach (Jason Bloomingburg) and staff made it easy to get everything set up and were always there when you had a question about something. What was appealing to me about the school was the class sizes and the location. Not being that far from Chicago is nice with being able to go down and catch a Hawks game or a Bulls game. The coach knows what he wants from his players and wants to put them in the right places to succeed.”
“Going into last season, I knew a big part of my focus off the ice would be deciding where I wanted to get my education and play college hockey next year,” added Storjohann. “Cortland reached out to me about halfway through last season and they immediately stood out because the SUNYAC is known as one of the strongest hockey conferences in the country. The coaches showed a lot of interest in my academic goals and told me I would get the chance to earn good playing time as a freshman.”
Amaya finished with 59 points in 56 games last season, placing him among the top 20 NOJHL goal scorers.
Storjohann placed fifth in NOJHL scoring with 73 points in 46 games, led the NOJHL in assists with 53 and led all U.S.-born players in scoring.
“The league is super competitive and I was fortunate to be surrounded by great teammates and coaches in Kirkland Lake,” said Storjohann. “The support from our community was wonderful. It was awesome to see how passionate people are for the game of hockey up there.”
“Playing in Kirkland was a huge change going from somewhere like Arizona,” Amaya noted. “It was a small town and everyone cared for the hockey team. Playing with Storjohann was great – we’ve been playing together for five years, starting with the AHU Knights and our first year of junior together in Richmond (for the USPHL’s Generals). It made it better having your buddy there, especially when you’re so far from home.”
As a youth back in Arizona, Amaya skated for the DYHA Firebirds, VOSHA Mustangs and AHU, while Storjohann played for the Roadrunners and AHU. Amaya cited Kurt Goar, Shawn Babin, Mychal Moore and C.J. Nussbaum as positive, influential coaches and Storjohann gave praise to Babin and Moore.
“My advice for young hockey players would be to always embrace your teammates and coaches,” Storjohann said. “The game has a lot to give if you respect it. Be a good teammate and approach things the right way. Control what you can and focus on getting better every day.”
“For players in Arizona trying to go as far as they can, just keep working on your game because when you take time off and don’t push yourself, there is always someone out there behind you that is working on their game and wants your spot,” added Amaya. “When you get out of youth hockey, it is a business and the staff doesn’t have time to wait for a player that doesn’t want to give it their all.”
— Matt Mackinder