Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Jake Ryczek: Another Top Selects Academy Player Commits to UNH

16-year-old Defenseman
Jake Ryczek

A few weeks ago, the second leading scorer on the USPHL U16 Champion Selects Academy team, Joey Cipollone, verbally committed to play for the University of New Hampshire. Now, Jake Ryczek (pronounced Rye-zick), the second leading scorer among the Selects Hockey Academy defensemen, has also committed to UNH. The 16-year-old Ryczek (DOB: 3/19/1998) and his teammates from the South Kent School have just completed a very successful 2013-14 season.

In January, the 5'11', 170 lbs., right-shot defenseman from Ludlow, Massachusetts was named to the USPHL U16 All-Star Team. Ryczek's performance in the All-Star game, held at Lawler Arena on the campus of Merrimack College, caught the eye of U.S. Hockey Report:
"Selects Academy 5’11” RD Jake Ryczek, a ’98 from the Springfield area, also stood out. His skating is excellent, and he’s comfortable with the puck on his stick."
The Selects Academy Cardinals finished the USPHL U16 regular season in first place with a perfect record of 29-0-0. Ryczek played in 26 games and scored 7 goals, including 2 power play goals, and 10 assists.

Selects Academy breezed through the USPHL U16 Playoffs winning all three games. In the Championship Game against the Jersey Hitmen, Jake Ryczek scored the second of the Cardinals' goals as they won 5-3.

In addition to league play in the USPHL, the Selects Academy/South Kent School U16 Team competed in the USA Hockey Regional and National Tournaments. They did so as the Central Connecticut Capitals. In November, they won the New England Regional Championship. Earlier this month, the Capitals traveled to Green Bay, Wisconsin to compete in the USA Hockey Tier I National Championships. After losing the opening game to Honey Baked (Michigan), the Connecticut team defeated Thunder Hockey (Tennessee/Georgia) 6-3 in Game 2. Jake Ryczek scored the team's first goal and assisted on the third.

With an opportunity to advance to the semifinals on the line, Ryczek and the Capitals faced the Buffalo Regals in the final game of pool play. After three 17-minute periods, the teams were tied 3-3. Neither scored in overtime setting up a shootout. The Regals' third shooter, Ryan Wheeler, scored. After three Capitals' shooters did not score, Jake Ryczek stepped up with the team trailing 1-0:

After 5 shooters, Central Connecticut and Buffalo were tied 1-1. Jake Ryczek was chosen to be the Capitals first shooter in the sudden death phase. Unfortunately, he did not score and the Regals' shooter did. No doubt, Jake and his Selects Academy teammates will be looking forward to earning a return trip to the National Championships next season.

I had an opportunity to interview Jake, via email, about his background, commitment to UNH, and future plans:

Mike Lowry ("C-H-C"): Congratulations on your commitment to play for the University of New Hampshire. What are the main reasons you chose UNH?
Jake Ryczek: Thank you. I’m very excited and so is my family. I chose UNH because the first time I was on campus it just felt right. UNH has a great coaching staff, I felt my game fit their hockey style and UNH is a great academic school for me.

Mike Lowry: What other college programs were you considering?
Jake Ryczek: I’ve visited some Hockey East Schools and some ECAC Schools, but I always wanted to play Hockey East and UNH was my number 1.

Lowry: Have you and the UNH coaches agreed on a target date for you to enroll as a freshman at UNH and join the team?
Ryczek: I would like to play a year of Juniors, so tentatively 2016 -2017.

Lowry: I watched one of the Selects Hockey Academy games from the USA Hockey U16 Nationals and saw you score a power play goal against the Thunder Hockey club. You showed mobility and an accurate shot in the offensive zone. At this stage in your hockey development, what are the strengths of your game? What areas are you trying to improve?
Ryczek: I would say my strengths are my speed and skating ability, making a good first pass and my quick release shot from the point.
The areas I would like to improve are my defensive plays in front of the net and, being 5’ 11”, I’m not a big defenseman so I need to get stronger.

Lowry: You have a lot in common with Joey Cipollone who committed to UNH last week. You both played for the Selects Academy/South Kent School U16 team that recently won the USPHL U16 Championship and you were selected to the USPHL All-Star Team. Have you had many opportunities to be on the ice at the same time as Joey and, if so, do your styles compliment each other?
Ryczek: It’s great being out on the ice with Joey. He’s the type of player that just makes everyone around him better. We didn’t have an official captain on our team this year, but in my opinion it would have been Joey. I’m very excited that we will continue to be team-mates at UNH.

Lowry: Do you plan on returning to Selects Academy to play next season and if so, will you play for the U18 team?
Ryczek: Yes I will be returning to South Kent (Selects Academy) to play for Coach Plante on the U18 team.

Lowry: Do you anticipate playing junior hockey before coming to UNH? If so, what leagues would you consider playing in?
Ryczek: Yes I do plan on playing Juniors. I would like to play in the USHL.

Lowry: Like current UNH player Tyler Kelleher and his brother Charlie, a fellow UNH recruit, you come from Western Massachusetts (Ludlow). Do you know Tyler and Charlie and have you played hockey with them?
Ryczek: Yes we played for the same organization, The New England Junior Falcons. Being different ages, we didn’t play on the same team but we have skated together at skills events, goalie clinics and just for fun pick-up games.

Lowry: Back when you were a 12-year-old, 7th grader, you played for the New York Pee Wee Rangers that won the Quebec International Pee-Wee Hockey Tournament. What was that experience like?
Ryczek: That was one of the most unbelievable experiences I’ve had in my hockey career. Spending 10 days in Quebec City, I billeted with the Boutin family, who were very good to me and made me feel like I was at home. The final game was against Little Ceasars and there was roughly 10,000 people in the Colisee. Coach Messier and Coach Devenney kept us very calm and confident to get the win.
After returning home we went to Madison Square Garden to watch the Rangers play the Bruins, had the honor of meeting Mark Messier and went out on the ice between periods to get introduced as the New York Pee-Wee Ranger Champions.

Lowry: In your time at the South Kent School, what have been your academic strengths?
Ryczek: South Kent has really helped me academically. They have taught me better study habits and to manage my time with a busy hockey schedule. I would have to say math is my strongest subject but I also enjoy history.


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