Tuesday, May 02, 2017

Culver Academy's Jackson Pierson Commits to UNH

Jackson Pierson
Culver Military Academy
"Clever, puck possession forward with high IQ, vision, shifty/quick feet." Neutral Zone
"Undersized forward with good stick skills, skating, and offensive know-how." Russ Bitely, Scout at HockeyProspects.com
"Jackson (Pierson) is a quiet leader who is a threat to score every shift he is on the ice. He routinely comes to practice and games ready to play. As a result, his passion to become a better hockey player and teammates is contagious." Steve Palmer, Head Coach, Culver Military Academy

The connections between the hockey programs at the University of New Hampshire and Culver (Indiana) Military Academy run deep. It began with a couple of UNH hockey legends who played in the late 1960's. J. Allan "Al" Clark (UNH Wildcats Athletic Hall of Fame) and Ryan Brandt (New Hampshire Legends of Hockey) were co-captains for Coach Charlie Holt (US Hockey Hall of Fame) in the 1969-70 season. After earning a masters degree from UNH, Al Clark founded the Culver Academy hockey program in 1976. When he retired after 40 years of coaching the hockey team and teaching math, Culver renamed the hockey arena in his honor.

After graduation from UNH and several years of semi-pro hockey in Concord, NH, Ryan Brandt joined Coach Clark at Culver Academy in 1980. Brandt coached and taught at Culver until 1986 when he returned to Concord to play semipro and coach youth hockey.

Culver Academy boasts a long list of elite alumni who were coached by Al Clark, including Gary and Ryan Suter, Barry Richter, John-Michael Liles, and Blake Geoffrion. One other notable was coached by Clark and Brandt at Culver then by Coaches Bob Kullen and Dick Umile at UNH - Kevin Dean, current Head Coach of the Providence Bruins. The Culver coaches encouraged the defenseman to visit UNH and, in 1987, Dean chose it over Wisconsin and Harvard. Dean tallied 50 points in 4 UNH seasons, was drafted by the New Jersey Devils, and played in their organization for 9 seasons. The highlight was winning the AHL Caldor Cup with the Albany River Rats and the Stanley Cup with the Devils in the 1994-95 season.

Forward Jackson Pierson
UNH Commit
The UNH-Culver Academy connection, which began with Charlie Holt and Al Clark in the 1960's, has moved into a new phase. The leading scorer for the 2016-17 Culver Eagles has verbally committed to the University of New Hampshire. Jackson Pierson (DOB: 9/9/1999), a native of Zionsville, Indiana, recently completed his junior season at Culver Academy. In 36 regular season games, Pierson scored 28 goals and 34 assists. As an independent prep school, Culver plays many of the top Prep Schools and Midget Major (18U) teams in North America including Shattuck St. Mary's, St. Andrew's College, Northwood School, and Chicago Mission.

Culver earned an invitation to the 2017 USA Hockey 18U National Championships by winning 3 out of 4 games at the Mid Am District Playoffs in mid-March. At the 18U Nationals in Pittsburgh, Culver won their first 3 games and advanced to the semifinals. Pierson, a 5'10", 170 lbs. left-shot forward, primarily played center throughout the tournament. In Game 2, Pierson scored the game-winning goal and added an assist in the 4-2 victory over the Tampa Scorpions.

In Game 3, Culver faced off against and the North Jersey Avalanche. Jackson Pierson initiated a pretty passing play leading to Culver's third goal en route to the 4-3 win. The semifinal game featured Culver against UNH commit Ryan Verrier and the Mid-Fairfield Chiefs. Midway through the third period, trailing by a goal, Culver went on the power play. Pierson received a pass on the half-wall, carried the puck across the slot, and snapped a wrister under the crossbar. Mid-Fairfield scored the game-winner a minute later, advanced to the Championship Game, but lost 4-3 in overtime to Team Wisconsin. Culver Academy finished the 2016-17 season as the 5th ranked 18U team in the nation.

Jackson Pierson completed the Nationals with 2 goals and 4 assists. He tied for 4th in tournament scoring and tied for 3rd in assists. Here are the video highlights of his goals and 2 of the assists:

Jackson Pierson has been recognized as a top 1999-born player for several years. Over the last three summers, he earned an invitation to the USA Hockey Selects Development Camp. Last June, Pierson tallied a goal and 2 assists in 5 games at the Selects 17 Development Camp. The scouts at Neutral Zone** have been tracking Pierson's development since the Selects Camp. Here's their most recent assessment from December:

"Pierson played a crafty, puck possession game here. He’s quick and is able to access all of his tools at full speed or in fast pace situations. Given that his game is flashy, slippery and slick handed; he doesn’t always get the credit for the hockey sense he has but he created a lot of offense here out of broken plays or off the rush that showed his mind for the game."
Rating - 3 3/4 out 5 Stars.

** Reprinted by permission of Brendan Collins, Director of Scouting at Neutral Zone.


I had an opportunity to interview Jackson Pierson, via email, about his hockey career and commitment to UNH:

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?

Jackson Pierson: Thank you very much, I’m excited about it. UNH is a good fit for me, I really enjoyed the campus, people and the hockey of course. I feel strongly about the coaches and the direction of the program.

Mike 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?

Jackson Pierson: We’ve talked directionally about it and will make a decision that’s mutually beneficial in the future.

Lowry: What other college programs were you considering? Which schools did you visit and which ones made an offer to you?

Pierson: I was fortunate to have interest from schools in Hockey East, NCHC, B1G, ECAC and Atlantic conferences, ultimately narrowing the final choices to UNH, UVM, UMass, Harvard & Princeton.

Lowry: At this stage in your hockey development, what are the strengths of your game? What areas are you trying to improve?

Pierson: You would have to ask my coaches about my strengths, but I think they would probably describe me as an athletic, playmaking forward who plays 200 feet. On the ice, I am trying to improve my shot and breakaway speed. Off the ice, I am working to gain the right kind of weight and get stronger.

Lowry: In your recently completed junior season at the Culver Military Academy, you lead the team with 28 goals and 34 assists and the team advanced to the semifinals of the 18U National Championship. Is that the first time you've competed for the National Championship? As a 17-year-old junior in high school, you tied for 4th in scoring at the 18U Nationals with 2 goals and 4 assists in 4 games. How do you think your performance stacked up against many of the top 17 and 18-year-old players in the country?

Pierson: I’ve been lucky to be on some good teams over the years, this was my fourth time competing for the National Championship. We were disappointed in the result this year, we had a tight knit team and had a legitimate chance to win it all.

Lowry: Do you plan to play in either the United States Hockey League or British Columbia Hockey League before you come to UNH?

Pierson: After graduating from Culver Academy, I’ll most likely play in the USHL before enrolling at UNH.

Lowry: This morning in Phase II of the USHL Draft, you were selected by the Green Bay Gamblers in the 9th Round. Do you plan to attend the Gamblers' Tryout Camp this summer?

Pierson: Yes I do plan on attending the tryout camp.

Lowry: You grew up in Zionsville, Indiana outside of Indianapolis. When did you first start skating and playing hockey? Who helped spur your interest in the sport?

Pierson: Like a lot of hockey players, I skated for the first time when I was 3 years old. Although my parents never played hockey, they have athletic backgrounds and encouraged me to try a variety of sports when I was young. Hockey has always been my favorite.

Lowry: You played youth hockey for the TPH Thunder organization which is based in Nashville, Atlanta, and Huntsville, Alabama. Did you commute long distances from your home in Indiana to practice and play for the Thunder? How did you balance hockey, school, and a social life?

Pierson: I practiced in Indianapolis during the week but yes, we traveled a lot and it was a total family commitment. Very thankful to my parents for their support during that time. The school part was easy, if I didn’t do well in school my parents would take away the hockey.

Lowry: What are your academic strengths and interests? When do you anticipate graduating from high school?

Pierson: I’m stronger in Math/Science and am undecided as to a major.

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