Scottsdale’s Middendorf heading back to NCAA ranks with Michigan State commitment
Erik Middendorf played the 2018-19 season and part of the 2019-20 season at Colorado College, but decided coming back to junior hockey was the best option last season.
Now the captain of the USHL’s Chicago Steel, the 20-year-old Scottsdale native and talented forward will play NCAA Division I hockey once again next fall having committed recently to Michigan State University.
Middendorf will have two seasons of eligibility with the Spartans once he lands on the East Lansing, Mich., campus next fall.
“Michigan State was always a school I was looking at because I played for the coach there (Danton Cole) with the U.S. NTDP and it was always a school I was considering,” said Middendorf, who played for the Jr. Coyotes growing up in the desert. “It just seemed like the perfect fit. I was thinking January 1 would be the day I decided, but my heart was pretty made up and I decided to commit early.”
Seeing all that MSU offers athletically and academically only enhanced the appeal of Michigan State to Middendorf.
“I played in Michigan for a few years (2016-18 with the NTDP) and went to games, know the rink and know their coach, so it was really the perfect opportunity for me,” Middendorf said. “I’m ready to get in there and make an impact for them. Just ready to get into the Big Ten and play some really good hockey.”
In the classroom, Middendorf is eyeing a curriculum in Business or Economics.
Playing for the Steel last season and now this season for his last year of junior hockey eligibility, Middendorf said he has further developed his game to, hopefully, be a top player next season for the Spartans.
“I’ve learned so much, and the coaching staff here is unbelievable,” said Middendorf. “The way they treat the players is incredible and even when I had a couple options to play college this year, I wanted to come back to the Steel because I thought it was crucial to my development to again play for these coaches and this staff.”
Getting the ‘C’ on his jersey was just the icing on the cake, according to Middendorf.
“I think being captain has elevated my game a little bit,” Middendorf said. “I put a lot of responsibility on myself and being an older guy having a younger team this year, there are huge shoes to fill from last year, obviously, but we’re trying to be our own team. The difference between being a captain and not is that you can’t take any games off. Every day I have to show up and not take any days off.”
With the Jr. Coyotes, Middendorf singled out Shawn McCosh as a coach that really pushed his ability and made him see that his talent could take him as far as he wanted.
“I chose to stay in Arizona because of how great of a coach he was,” said Middendorf. “Now you look at guys like Auston Matthews and Shane Doan who made names for themselves, they make you want to stay and for me, there was never any reason for me to leave Arizona until I had the opportunity to go play for the NTDP.”
Now with his college commitment set and a new calendar year about to begin, Middendorf can devote 100 percent of his time to leading the Steel to what he hopes is a long playoff run in the spring.
“We had a hot start for the first month and a half there, and we just have to get after it again in the second half,” Middendorf said. “We have a lot of time left before playoffs to keep coming together as a team. We just have to keep getting better every day and, hopefully, once playoffs come around, we’ll be a team no one wants to play.”
— Matt Mackinder
(Dec. 30, 2020)