CORPUS CHRISTI, TEXAS – The Corpus Christi IceRays of the North American Hockey League (NAHL) are proud to announce the commitment of forward Jimmy O’Brien to Colorado College, a NCAA Division I program in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference (NCHC), for the 2017-18 season.
“I’m really excited,” said O’Brien. “It certainly takes a weight off your shoulders when you’re playing. I think I’ve been playing pretty well and playing hard. Obviously, I’d like to produce a little more, but I’ve been doing the little things and the right things, and that’ll make a difference in the end.”
O’Brien, 18, joined the IceRays organization through a tender contract signed on Feb. 10, 2015 out of the Chicago Mission U18 of the High Performance Hockey League (HPHL), recording eight goals and 13 assists for 21 points through 22 games. Prior to the 2015-16 season, O’Brien was drafted by the Lincoln Stars in the 17th Round (260th overall) during Phase II of the 2015 USHL Draft and participated in their training camp before joining the IceRays prior to the NAHL Showcase.
The Winnetka, Ill., native’s contributions since joining the IceRays have come in some key moments. Most notably, O’Brien’s power play goal on October 3 against the Amarillo Bulls helped push the IceRays toward a 2-1 shootout victory and a sweep of the opening weekend at home against the Bulls, and he also recorded the team’s lone short-handed goal on November 19 on a breakaway during the team’s 4-3 overtime win over the Lone Star Brahmas.
“Jimmy is a great example of someone taking advantage of an opportunity,” said IceRays head coach John Becanic. “Jimmy came to Corpus Christi and went right to work and made an immediate impact on the ice. He is a tireless worker and someone we count on in all situations. In talking with Coach Haviland, they wanted a player with a high compete level combined with a strong skill set. Jimmy was the perfect fit for that. I look forward to having the opportunity to continue coaching him and watch his game evolve into an elite junior player.”
O’Brien will join last year’s team-leading point-scorer, Wes Michaud, on the Tigers’ roster as the second IceRays player to join the program in the challenging NCHC. Thus far, the NCHC owns five teams in the USCHO.com Rankings including four in the top-10: #5 University of North Dakota, #6 University of Nebraska-Omaha, #7 St. Cloud State, #9 University of Denver, and #17 University of Minnesota-Duluth. Colorado has struggled out of the gates while playing five ranked teams out of their six total opponents including #2 Boston College and #4 UMass-Lowell. O’Brien hopes to step in and aid a very young Tigers roster in building their program.
“I really want to help bring a high complete level to [Colorado College],” said O’Brien. “I’m a hard-worker, so I think that will really benefit. I just want to work hard, complete and produce a bit as well as raise my level of play. I’m looking forward to 2017.”
The 5-foot-8, 170-pound forward is the fourth member of this year’s IceRays squad to own a NCAA Division I scholarship: Michael Bevilacqua (Canisius College), Nathan Bryer (Mercyhurst University) and Simon Butala (University of Maine). This season, O’Brien has appeared in 15 games, recording three goals and two assists for five points with 12 penalty minutes and a -7 rating. He is third of the team in special teams points, and all three of his goals have come on special teams.
Following the Thanksgiving break, the IceRays head back on the road on Thursday, Dec. 3 for their second trip to the Ector County Coliseum for the first of a two-game set at 7:05 p.m. against the Odessa Jackalopes. The IceRays return home on Friday, Dec. 11 at 7:11 p.m. against the Amarillo Bulls at the American Bank Center. Contact the IceRays Front Office at 361-814-PUCK or go to www.goicerays.com for details on season tickets along with pricing and seating. In addition, stay connected with the IceRays on Facebook (/CorpusChristiIceRays), Twitter (@goicerays), YouTube (IceRays TV), Instagram (CorpusChristiIceRays), Vine (@goicerays), and Periscope (@goicerays).