By Mason Lyttle (@MasonLyttle) | Dec 28, 2017 | 3:35pm
JANESVILLE, WI – The Janesville Jets, proud members of the North American Hockey League (NAHL), are pleased to announce that forward Kip Hoffmann has committed to play NCAA Division I hockey for the Robert Morris Colonials of the Atlantic Hockey Conference.
(photo credit Shelley Schmidt)
The fourth-year Jet was named captain by his teammates in September, and as of Thursday afternoon, is just one point away from 100 in his Jets career.
The Chicago suburbs kid developed in the Chicago Mission program and joined the Jets as a fresh-faced 17-year-old. He has 167 NAHL games under his belt, and has put together one of the most storied careers in franchise history. He quickly recognized his two head coaches for what they’ve done to help him get his D-I deal.
“I can’t even begin to explain what [former head] Coach [Joe] Dibble and Coach [Gary] Shuchuk have done for me to be able to accept a scholarship to play Division I college hockey,” Hoffmann said. “Both of them mean the absolute world to me. I would not be where I’m at without them.”
Hoffmann scored his first NAHL goal more than three years ago in September of 2014 at the NAHL Showcase Tournament against the Brookings Blizzard. He added only one more in his rookie season, but has made constant, big strides in his game every season. His improvements have led to padded stats: his points-per-game rose from .31 as a rookie to .46 the following year, then to .70 last season, and now the captain has recorded 30 points in 27 games so far this year. Still, many of his advances don’t directly translate to gains in the stats columns.
“Since coming to Janesville, I’ve always been learning and adapting to be a 200-foot player,” Hoffmann said. “Putting the puck in the back of the net and celebrating ridiculously has always been my favorite thing about being a hockey player, but over these years in Janesville, Coach Dibble and Coach Shuchuk have preached about doing the little things right. Chipping pucks out at the blue lines, not overhandling the puck, blocking shots, moving your feet when you don’t have the puck, things like that. By learning to play better without the puck and doing the little things right, I’ve brought more intangibles to my game and that’s made me a better hockey player and teammate.”
Even before joining the Jets, head coach Gary Shuchuk had seen plenty of Hoffmann from his own recruitment efforts at Wisconsin and Michigan Tech. Now with four months of work and communications with his captain, Shuchuk couldn’t agree more on Kip’s self-assessment.
“He’s definitely worked on becoming a more complete player, playing a 200-foot game and working on the defensive side of his game,” said Shuchuk.
The Colonials play in a Pittsburgh suburb called Neville Township, Pennsylvania, a tiny township located entire on an island less than 2.5 square miles in the Ohio River. The program is in its 13th season of NCAA competition, all under head coach Derek Schooley. The Colonials are just 7-11-1 so far this year but are coming off of three straight 20+ win seasons, and boast two Atlantic Hockey regular season champions in the last three years. Former Jet Michael Louria is in his first year with the program as a transfer from UMass-Lowell.
“Robert Morris’ hockey program and academics are second to none,” said Hoffmann, who plans on studying either pre-medicine or sport management. “The Colonials are a top team in the Atlantic Hockey Conference and I trust in my abilities to help continue that tradition.”
Hoffmann, like almost every hockey player, is probably someone you would call a superstitious person. Were that ever questioned, he offered insight on what he sees as great things to come.
“In 2013, I was with the Chicago Mission, and we won the national championship at the Island Sports Center in Neville Township, where the Colonials play,” Hoffmann said. “My heart tells me that winning a championship there is a sign that success will come when I become a Colonial.”
Coach Shuchuk also sees immediate bright things for the soon-to-be franchise leader in games played.
“I see Kip being a contributor right away,” Shuchuk said. “Being an older player with junior experience, that will help him with the adjustment to college hockey. He can play any role that Coach Schooley needs him to.”
For the team, the captain’s long and winding road to a Division I deal is not just a jolt of energy and excitement, but also an example for the younger players, as Shuchuk sees it.
“You want to see players that work hard and get rewarded,” explained Shuchuk. “That’s what has happened here. We have a young team and this shows these young guys that it’s a marathon, not a sprint, to get noticed by college coaches. Kip kept working hard and kept improving his overall game and it paid off. A lot of young players think that just because they’re playing junior hockey now, or were the big time players on their high school or AAA teams, that they’ll get a deal right away. Kip paid his dues and he’s now going to a good hockey program and a good school to continue his education and continue playing the game he loves.”
Hoffmann becomes the sixth player of the 2017-18 Janesville Jets roster to commit to a Division I program, joining TJ Polglaze (Michigan Tech), Sam Renlund (Colorado College), Regan Cavanagh (Bentley), Daniel Lebedeff (Wisconsin), and Jakov Novak (Bentley).