CORPUS CHRISTI, TEXAS – The Corpus Christi IceRays of the North American Hockey League (NAHL) are proud to announce that captain Joe Chitwood and forward Matt Colford have committed to continue their hockey careers at Saint John’s University, a NCAA Division III program in the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, starting in the 2015-16 season.
“This feels pretty amazing,” said Chitwood. “I’m really happy to finally have [my commitment] in the books and have it under my belt. To be enrolled and have a plan for my future. I’ve spent the last two years looking to figure out a plan, and it’s nice to have security for the next four years.”
“Playing hockey after juniors has always been a goal of mine,” said Colford. “I wanted to find a place that felt right both academically and for hockey. After my junior career, this felt like the right place to land, and I’m happy to attend Saint John’s next fall.”
Chitwood, 20, completed his second season with the IceRays while setting carrer-highs for junior hockey. In 49 games during the 2014-15 season, the Carmel, Ind., native earned four goals and 18 assists for 22 points with 86 penalty minutes and a +1 rating with one power play goal, all of which are career-highs. In two seasons with the IceRays, Chitwood earned seven goals and 21 assists for 28 points with 130 penalty minutes and a -7 rating. In addition, he took on a larger role away from the rink as the team’s captain, but even with one season remaining in his junior career, his focus has turned to his education.
“At the beginning, I was trying to find an identity,” said Chitwood, concerning his junior career. “Coming out of Triple-A, everyone’s a scorer and a go-to-guy. You get to juniors trying to just find your place and role with a new team. I consider myself one of the hardest workers on the ice and that’s the way I like to think of my junior career. Obviously, I think Coach [John] Becanic gave me a lot of control and leeway as a captain with the team. It gave me experience managing players and other people, figuring out how to deal with different personalities, and keeping everyone on the same page. That really helped me mature so much. I got to know more about life, people, and how to handle hardships. I think it’s really going to help pay off in the long run.”
Colford, 20, ended his second and final season in the NAHL while splitting this season between the IceRays and Minnesota Magicians. In 28 games since joining the IceRays on January 7, the Champlin, Minn., native earned six goals and 11 assists for 17 points with 10 penalty minutes and a -6 rating. Those scoring numbers double what he achieved in 32 games with the Magicians this season, and over his NAHL career the center racked up 30 goals and 45 assists for 75 points with 22 penalty minutes, a -6 rating, and 12 power play goals through 117 games.
“Coming out of high school hockey, you can tell where you stand,” said Colford. “It’s eye-opening to see good players playing junior hockey around the country who are just as good as you. Playing in Minnesota with a brand new team was a cool way to get in the league and transition. My junior career was an eye-opening experience both for ice hockey and for life. It was good to move away from home, and I loved every minute of it [in Corpus Christi]. It was just everything you could ask for.”
Chitwood is focusing his off-ice career in the medical field, enrolling in Saint John’s University’s pre-med program and looking to be a surgeon after medical school. Colford knows that he wants to learn global business, but the specifics within that field are still unclear. The two planned their trip at the same time and hoped to both go into the program together.
The pair of forwards join two other forwards on the list of IceRays commitments during the 2014-15 season. In November, forward Wes Michaud committed to the NCAA Division I program Colorado College, and forward Tanner Lomsnes earned his commitment to the NCAA Division I program Niagara University in March. Chitwood and Colford will also join three former IceRays in the MIAC next season: Jon Grebosky (Concordia-Moorhead), Alex Koopmeiners (Concordia-Moorhead), and John Roisum (St. Thomas).
“Joe is the consummate team player,” said IceRays head coach John Becanic. “He will bring his leadership and hard work to Saint John’s and help to make everyone around him a better player and person. Matt is another gem of a person. There’s no doubt that he will make Saint John’s a program that will contend in the MIAC. Saint John’s added two great players to their locker room and two quality people to their institution.”
The 2015 IceRays Pre-Draft Camp begins Friday, May 29 from the Taylor Sportsplex in Taylor, Mich. to prepare for the 2015-16 season. Get more information on camp details and stay current with the latest team news by visiting www.goicerays.com. In addition, stay connected with the IceRays on Facebook (/CorpusChristiIceRays), Twitter (@goicerays), YouTube (IceRays TV), Instagram (CorpusChristiIceRays), and Vine (@goicerays).