In past articles, I’ve talked about the Prince George Spruce Kings hockey program. It’s a great program that has seen several players recruited by NCAA schools. In fact, the University of Alaska-Anchorage recruited Spruce Kings graduating player Chong Min Lee to play for them this fall.
Two other Spruce Kings players have also been recruited. This time by a men’s NCAA program started at Long Island University. Nolan Welsh and Preston Brodziak will join the Sharks men’s hockey team in September.
The team is an NCAA Division I program that’s brand new after being announced at the end of April. About a month later the program hired Brett Riley as its first head coach. LIU is the only active Division I men’s program in New York City.
LIU’s new program has recruited players from across North America. Welsh and Brodziak are the only players taken from the same team. Along with Marty Westhaver of the Victoria Grizzlies, they are the only players recruited who played in the BCHL during the 2019-20 season.
COVID-19 permitting, the LIU’s new men’s ice hockey program is working quickly to get ready for its first season. They will join a women’s ice hockey program who played its first season in 2019-20.
We are so excited to welcome our new head coach, @BrettRiley27! Read more about the new leader of our Sharks here:
— LIU Hockey (@LIUMHockey) May 27, 2020
During that season, the women’s team experienced some early success. They won a conference championship playing in the New England Women’s Hockey Alliance.
This early success has come about because of rapid changes at LIU. In the past, its athletic programs were divided between their two Long Island Campuses. In 2019, the separate programs were under one NCAA Division I program, current students and alumni then voted to adopt the name Sharks.
LIU history and the rise of the Sharks
Long Island University was first chartered in 1926. The first campus is in Brooklyn while the second campus is in Brookville. Until 2019, LIU Brooklyn and LIU Post had separate athletics programs in separate NCAA divisions.
The Division 1 LIU Blackbirds played out of Brooklyn and the Division 3 LIU Post Pioneers played out of Brookville. Last year, the two programs were unified as a single Division 1 program. Afterward, the athletic teams adopted the name Sharks.
As mentioned earlier, the new Division I men’s ice hockey team is still preparing for its first season. The Sharks have already recruited several players from different junior teams and leagues across North America. The Amarillo Bulls, Bonnyville Pontiacs, Brooks Bandits, Chippewa Steel, and Kemptville 73’s have players going to LIU.
As for Welsh and Brodziak, they put up impressive numbers this past season. Welsh had 14 goals and 25 assists in 46 games while Brodziak had 15 goals and 17 assists in 56 games.
The program they’ve joined has seen an intense amount of interest. According to Ryan Kennedy of The Hockey News, the program received over 300 responses to a prospective student questionnaire in 24 hours.
In 2017, Sharks inaugural head coach Riley helped start a new NCAA Division III program at Wilkes University. During his first season at Wilkes, Riley led the Colonels to a 16-8-3 record.
The women’s team played their games at Islander Iceworks and the Northwell Health Center. These are New York Islanders’ practice facilities so the men will likely play there as well. LIU is already a member of the Northeastern Conference so it would make sense for the new men’s team to play other teams in that conference.
COVID-19 and the future
Despite the LIU men’s hockey program getting ready for its first season, COVID-19 has flipped everything upside down. In early July, the Northeastern Conference Council of Presidents issued guidelines for a return-to-play plan.
The plan as of now is to start on September 10 for conference and non-conference competition. Several of the member schools in the Conference come from states with mandatory quarantine periods for outside travellers. These include travellers from states with current high infection rates like Texas.
COVID-19 aside, this is only the beginning. It appears the LIU men’s ice hockey program will become a major recruiter of BCHL talent. The school has already accomplished a lot with fewer resources. The addition of Welsh and Brodziack could also be the beginning of a long relationship between the Spruce Kings and the Long Island University Sharks.