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Despite down year, NAU’s Division III team able to find optimism


Northern Arizona University’s American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA) Division III team endured a difficult year on the ice in 2015-16, but young players gained valuable experience and a pair of IceJacks were named Academic All-Americans.

NAU finished the season 27th out of 35 teams in the ACHA Division III Pacific Region after some key injuries and facing a difficult schedule.

“It was the toughest year we have had since we split into two teams,” said NAU D-III coach Kris Walsh. “We had a lot of veteran core guys get injured and with 14 freshmen being called upon with a strength of schedule in the top five in the Pacific, it was tough to win games.”

The IceJacks started the season 6-4-2 before going on a nine-game road trip.

“We played the top two teams in the Pacific late in the year and put up really great efforts,” Walsh said. “The young guys have grown greatly in the past few months and we hope to continue to build off the young core we have coming back for next season.”

In all, the IceJacks will lose six seniors in forwards Patrick Bridgman, Kyle Mair, Alex Stewart and Steven Taylor, defenseman Chris Eades and goalie Anthony Caruso.

Eades, with a 3.58 grade-point average, and sophomore forward Collin Smith, who had a 3.59 GPA, earned Academic All-American honors.

Aspiring IceJacks players will have a chance to impress to coaches at a prospects camp from Aug. 30-Sept. 3. Formal tryouts for the 2016-17 year will run Sept. 7-10.

— James Kelley

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