IceJacks ready for season after pair of prospect camps
The season is just around the corner for the Northern Arizona University hockey program.
The IceJacks held a prospect camp Sept. 1-5 in Flagstaff so the 83 players could get used to the altitude.
NAU general manager AJ Fairchild said even returning players need time to adjust to the conditions.
“It’s to get the guys skating every day for a week and getting them acclimated to the altitude at 7,000 feet,” Fairchild said. “It’s very difficult. We usually have that advantage at home in the third period, that’s for sure.”
NAU then held its annual tryout camp from Sept. 9-12, a selection process that saw the 83 players trimmed down to 56. Of the 83 players, Fairchild said 40 were returners and 43 were new prospects.
The IceJacks’ American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA) Division II and Division III teams will each carry 28 players – 15 forwards, 10 defensemen and a trio of goalies.
“I think it’s a perfect number carrying 28 players,” said Fairchild. “That will get you through a 30-something game season, not counting regionals or nationals.”
NAU’s Division II squad has been on an impressive run of late, making the ACHA national tournament in three of the last four years. The IceJacks finished ninth in the country last season.
This year, Fairchild said NAU’s biggest competition won’t be far away.
“Arizona State University is going to be ridiculous,” Fairchild said. “They will be very formidable again. We know that our top rival is right down the road.”
As for NAU’s Division III team, that squad qualified for the regional tournament each of the last four seasons and made a trip to nationals two years ago. Fairchild said the Division III team will play a rugged schedule that will hopefully prepare the team for the post-season.
With the teams opening their season later in September, Fairchild sees his pair of squads ready to roll.
“During the months off, I get players in and that’s where I’m needed,” Fairchild said. “You hope you picked the right players and the best players.”
— Eric Smith