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Weighing in on Alex Whelan’s journey to the Quinnipiac men’s ice hockey team


Photo courtesy Quinnipiac Athletics

By: Victoria Rutigliano

It wasn’t luck that brought Alex Whelan 35 goals and 40 assists in 27 games his junior year of high school for the Jersey Hitmen. It wasn’t luck when he was named the United States Premiere Hockey League’s Most Valuable Player for his age division when he was 16. And it definitely wasn’t luck that brought him the North Jersey Player of the Year award three times while playing for his hometown high school.

Luck was on Whelan’s side, however, when Quinnipiac men’s ice hockey head coach Rand Pecknold was out scouting future players for his team.

Perched on the blue benches in the stands of the Ice Vault Arena in northern New Jersey, Pecknold watched a game ensue between the Jersey Hitmen and Baltimore Skipjacks. While he was there scouting a different player, he couldn’t help but notice the skill and passion that came from Whelan on the ice.

“His compete level is unbelievable,” Pecknold said. “I remember that day he had a three-on-five [penalty] kill. He was out there, scored a goal three-on-five. He just had a will to him that I thought would fit well into what we do here.”

 Pecknold immediately called Quinnipiac assistant coach and recruiter Bill Riga to discuss what he’d seen.

 From that game forward Whelan was on the Bobcats’ radar, and it wouldn’t take long for him to sign to a school he had just recently watch go to the 2013 National Championship.

 Playing for his high school all four years, Whelan dominated, logging a total of 265 points playing for Ramsey High School. This included two 80-point seasons in just 29 games both his junior and senior year.

While most players opt to leave high school hockey in order to play more competitively, Whelan wanted to stay and represent his hometown.

 “I think it’s just all about family,” Whelan said. “I really like my family so it’s a big deal to stay at home with them, it’s just always what I’ve known.”

Coming from a tight knit family, Whelan choosing a college less than two hours from his home was a bonus.

Fast forward a few years and Whelan is stepping out onto the ice to join his teammates in Hamden. However, he quickly learned the tricks that worked in high school hockey weren’t going to work against the big kids.

“I mean obviously college hockey is much faster, it took me like a while to adjust,” Whelan said. “I’d say the first few weeks here I was having trouble in practice and then as I started getting more used to it, I started playing better and more confident which is really key.”

 Pecknold echoed these issues Whelan faced in the early weeks of the season.

 “I think it was an eye opener on how good the level was and, as I told him multiple times, his work ethic in practice wasn’t good enough,” Pecknold said. “What he got away with his whole life wasn’t gonna work here. So he had to adapt and I give him credit. He’s done that.”

 Now, Whelan has a steady role as a forward hopping between the second and third line on the team and playing in the past 13 straight games for the Bobcats.

 In these 13 games, Whelan’s logged just a goal and an assist. Despite getting cut from the lineup in the first four games of the season, he’s still the fourth highest shot producer on the team (36).

 Even though his numbers on the score sheet are low, the freshman has earned his spot on the ice, according to Pecknold.

 “I’d say in the last four or five weeks of practice he’s been working his tail off,” Pecknold said. “So, really competitive kid, he’s got a good stick and he’s still kind of learning the game a little bit. But he’s only 19 years old. We’ve been happy with Alex in his progress.”

 While Whelan might not be racking up goals as a Bobcat like he did in junior and high school hockey, Pecknold feels confident this could be the case in the future.

 “He’s still got a long way to go from, he has to get better as a player for us,” Pecknold said. “But if he’s willing to work in practice the way he’s done recently, he’s gonna be an outstanding player for us.”

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