NAU reloads after roster turnover
By Justin Emerson
It’s the name of the game in college hockey; every four years, you have what amounts to a completely different team.
The NAU Ice Jacks graduated 14 players between its American Collegiate Hockey Association Division II and Division III teams last year.
But while the roster turnover is not small – and most of those seniors were on the Division II team that finished ninth at nationals last season – neither are the program’s tryout numbers. NAU saw 93 players skate for the 56 roster spots between the two teams.
“You don’t really replace those guys with 18- and 19-year-olds coming in for their first year of college,” general manager AJ Fairchild said. “It takes awhile.”
But that doesn’t mean the team expects to enter any sort of rebuilding phase.
This year’s Division II team will see four freshmen, with Division II taking on the rest of the prospects, including what Fairchild called some “incredible offensive talent.”
“We think we have some excellent young players that are going to develop,” Fairchild said.
That includes Phoenix’s Daniel Diaz, as well as some from Southern Californians like Rick Lawrence and Jacob Pascale.
With so many new players, some stability helps, and that comes in the form of captain and senior defenseman Cameron McDonald, a former player with the Scottsdale-based Phoenix Jr. Coyotes program.
“He’ll be our top defenseman, bringing this young group along,” Fairchild said. “He’s shown a lot of leadership, he’s a really smart kid. He’s just one of these you know is going to be successful young man when he gets out of school.”
NAU’s D-II team started the season 4-1-0 – its only early loss coming to D-I University of Arizona – proving the program is retooled and ready to make another run at the ACHA title, be it with new faces or old.