Photo credit: Kenneth George Lenger III
The Blackfalds Bulldogs’ 2022-23 season saw the team suit up by the end of the season with twelve NCAA Division One committed players on their roster. Over the summer, two more players committed to post-secondary programs, leading to every one of Blackfalds’ six graduating players continuing their hockey careers; Matthew Hennessey to Anna Maria College in NCAA division three, Kasey Hiemstra to Mount Royal University in USports, Brett Meerman to NCAA division one with Augusta University, Evan Mitchell to St. Lawrence University in NCAA division one, Jason Siedem to the University of New Hampshire in NCAA division one, and Tyler Wallace to Niagara University in NCAA division one.
Matthew Hennessey’s Anna Maria College finished last season with an 8-1-10 record and was set to start the new season against Worcester State University on home ice. Hennessey made his debut as the starting goaltender, looking to earn his first NCAA victory.
Anna Maria went down through two periods, with Worcester State University making good on three power play opportunities in the second period to lead 3-1 through 40 minutes. Hennessey, however, stood tall in the third period, stopping all 12 shots he faced in the final 20 minutes, laying the foundation for his team to come from behind and win, as Anna Maria scored four in the third to win 5-3. Hennessey’s 33 saves on 36 shots marked an excellent college debut, and while it’s his only game to date, the strong debut makes him a leading candidate to lead his team into their six games in November.
Kasey Hiemtsra’s Mount Royal University has started the USports season 6-2-0, good enough for third in a strong CW division. Back-to-back victories have cemented them inside October’s top ten rankings, sitting ninth through the first month of the USports rankings.
“We’ve had a really good start to the season! I feel like we are a highly skilled team with lots of speed and offence and a team that has really good chemistry,” said Kasey Hiemstra earlier this week. “I believe we are a top-tier team in Canada.”
Through his six games so far this season, Hiemstra hasn’t yet registered a point, but is happy with the transition to the next level, saying; “The transition to USport has been really good. It’s a really fast-paced, skilled and competitive league to play in.”
Hiemstra has averaged just under two shots on goal per game so far, playing in four of his team’s six wins.
Of all Bulldogs grads, Blackfalds native Brett Meerman has arguably had the most success thus far, being the only one to notch his first NCAA goal in his four games so far.
“That was a very good feeling. It was kind of a weird one because the ref got in the way when I was on the forecheck, and then when Neumo (Ryan Naumovski) scooped the puck up, I almost ran into him, and then he pretty much did the rest and put it on a platter for me to tuck it in. Obviously, a lot of credit goes to him on that one because he made it pretty easy for me,” said Meerman.
It was hard to gauge the expectations for Augustana University’s inaugural season in NCAA Division One. Expecting big things from any first-year team is hard, but Augustana’s start has the team, and Meerman himself, confident in their capability.
“Obviously we opened up against Wisconsin which wasn’t an easy task but I think we learned a lot that weekend about how good we can be if we play the right way,” said Meerman. After that Rabs (Head Coach Garrett Raboin) has had us just focus on getting better each day and with that results will come. I think it speaks how confident of a group we are when you look at our last couple of weekends… We swept Bowling Green but right after switched our focus because we had a big task at Denver and CC the next weekend.”
After two losses to Wisconsin and two wins over Bowling Green State, Augusta was able to tie the University of Denver after overtime before winning in the shootout. Augustana improved their record the next day, beating Colorado College 4-3.
“The NCHC division is one of the premier divisions in NCAA hockey, and before (our) game, Denver was ranked number two in the country, but we went in there and weren’t worried about the result. We just played as hard as we could and the result came. The same thing happened the next night and I think after that weekend it’s hard not to be confident that we can play with any team in the NCAA,” said Meerman.
Meerman has earned a goal and assist through four games, scoring his goal on October 15 in his team’s 4-1 win over Bowling Green State. Thanks to ongoing construction to the team’s home arena, the rest of their 2023 schedule sees them hit the road, starting with a back-to-back away to Michigan Tech starting tonight and tomorrow.
Meerman says that he’s loved Sioux Falls so far.
“It has been good. We have a lot of older guys who have been through the process and a good coaching staff. Overall it’s a very good group of people not only at the rink but in the community of Augustana and Sioux Falls so it’s been nothing but a treat so far. Personally, I’m still finding my footing and adjusting to the speed of the game but confidence is finally starting to come which is good,” said Meerman.
Evan Mitchell’s St. Lawrence University has started 1-4-1 thus far, with their win coming over the Rochester Institute of Technology in early October. Mitchell has played in one of St. Lawrence’s six games so far, getting their call against arguably their toughing opponent, losing 4-1 to Penn State.
St. Lawrence has a tough back-to-back this weekend, with two games on the road against Ferris State University.
Madison, New Jersey native Jason Siedem has yet to make his NCAA debut, but his University of New Hampshire team has had an incredible start to the season, earning a number 15 ranking through their first month.
The team is 4-1-0 through what’s been a very tough first five games, including a 6-4 win in their home opener against number-one-ranked Boston University. Their only loss so far came against number four ranked Quinnipiac but managed to bounce back, winning 5-4 in overtime in the second half of their back-to-back.
This weekend’s back-to-back against Providence will be another tough test for UNH to try and maintain their .800 winning percentage thus far.
Tyler Wallace’s Niagara University has started 1-3-1 through their road-heavy month of October, losing a back-to-back against the University of Nebraska-Omaha to start, before a tie against Mercyhurst on home ice. A road trip to Fairfield, Connecticut followed, with Niagara able to notch their first victory of the season, beating Sacred Heart University 4-3 in overtime. Wallace was able to notch his first NCAA point on his team’s first goal, earning a secondary assist early in the second period.
Niagara has more home games in November, playing a back-to-back against Air Force on Friday and Saturday nights.
Check back in at the start of December for the next Bulldogs alumni report!
Bulldogs graduates in action this weekend:
Matthew Hennessey, Anna Maria College, NCAA III
Saturday, November 4 at Fitchburg State University, 2:00 PM MST
Kasey Hiemstra, Mount Royal University, USports
Friday, November 3 vs. University of British Columbia, 7:00 PM MST
Saturday, November 4 vs. University of British Columbia, 5:00 PM MST
Brett Meerman, Augustana University, NCAA
Friday, November 3 @ Michigan Tech, 5:07 PM MST
Saturday, November 4 @ Michigan Tech, 4:07 PM MST
Evan Mitchell, St. Lawrence University, NCAA
Friday, November 3 @ Ferris State University, 4:00 PM MST
Saturday, November 4 @ Ferris State University, 4:00 PM MST
Jason Siedem, University of New Hampshire, NCAA
Friday, November 3 vs. Providence College, 4:00 PM MST
Saturday, November 4 @ Providence College, 4:00 PM MST
Tyler Wallace, Niagara University, NCAA
Friday, November 3 vs. Air Force Academy, 4:00 PM MST
Saturday, November 4 vs. Air Force Academy, 4:00 PM MST