By Joshua Boyd / USPHLPremier.com
Nicholas Becker won’t have to go too far from his Portland, Maine, home to kick off his NCAA hockey career, as he just recently committed to New England College in Henniker, N.H. The two-year junior veteran forward couldn’t be more excited to get started later this summer.
“I started talking with New England College in November. It was pretty much back and forth emails throughout the entire season. Coach [Tom] Carroll watched some film on me,” said Becker, an ‘02 who put up 14 points in 37 games with the Twin City Thunder this past season. “He told me he is looking to add speed and quickness to his roster which I feel is one of my biggest assets. He also told me he is looking for players who can make smart plays under pressure.”
Becker is one of two Thunder players headed to NEC, as he will be joined by Sweden’s Filip Tjarnhell, who just committed a few weeks earlier.
“Going to NEC with a familiar face is going to be a little bit of a relief. Fil and I were extremely close throughout the whole season. We played on a line together for some games, we always worked out together after practice, and we were also the two oldest players on our team which forced us to share leadership roles,” said Becker. “Fil and I are both really excited that our days of playing together are not over.”
He’s extremely excited to be doing so at a college with the history and achievements of NEC, including three NCAA tournaments and a winning record dating back to 2002-03 held by Coach Carroll.
“I knew NEC had what I was looking for in a major, campus size, and I feel I could thrive there academically. On the hockey side of things, I did research on Coach Carroll and I noticed he has a very successful coaching background as he carries a winning record with NEC, and he has also coached at the Division I level and in the USHL,” Becker said. “Another person who inspired me to look into NEC is my [Portland-Deering] high school coach, Jeff Beaney. He played at NEC for two years and was inducted into the NEC Athletic Hall of Fame due to setting records such as highest point-per-game average, most assists in a season, and most consecutive games with goals/points.”
Between Coaches Carroll and Beaney, as well as Thunder Coach Colt Steele, he’s had a lot of good role models in hockey operations in his life. It’s no surprise he is interested in a future behind the bench.
“I plan to study Sports Management with hopes to get my bachelor’s degree and eventually become a high level hockey coach after my playing days,” he added.
He’s excited to do this at the NEC campus in the pastoral central New Hampshire town of Henniker, with its fall colors, covered bridge and winter sports mania, including Pats Peak ski area right in town.
“Seeing the campus in person was even better than just seeing the online photos. It is small, and has a real New England feel, which was exactly what I was looking for in a campus,” said Becker. “It will be nice just having to take quick walks to the places I need to be. The rink on campus is the cherry on top.”
He will certainly miss his fellow teammates, the coaches and the management with the Thunder as he moves on to this next chapter in his hockey life.
“The Twin City Thunder shouldn’t just be viewed as an organization. When you are a part of the Thunder, you are part of a family. This past season, I started out with a team in the EHL. Things didn’t work out after the first few weeks of the season which led me to go back home,” said Becker. “I remembered getting a text from Coach Steele a couple months prior to the season. He mentioned that he saw me play in a tournament and that he was interested in me playing for Twin City, but I had to tell him I was signed elsewhere. When I reached out to him shortly after arriving back home, he gave it no thought and told me he would still love to have me. The team instantly welcomed me in and treated me like I belonged.
“The Thunder truly does care about player development. We had multiple NCDC call-ups this season including Pierce Blaeser, who played the majority of the season’s first half in Premier and the second half in the NCDC. As an age-out, Coaches Steele and [Caleb] Labrie really worked with me on the little details that would assist me in making the jump to college hockey,” Becker added. “This goes to show if you buy in, trust the process, and work your hardest, the Thunder coaching staff will notice and reward you.”
He also really enjoyed being part of the aggressive USPHL Showcase Series, where the Thunder played in numerous events over the season and got their players in front of several dozen NCAA coaches over the course of the season.
“The USPHL Premier does a very good job with exposing players to college coaches,” he added. “I noticed many college coaches and scouts at showcases and there were always players getting talked to after every showcase game.”
Summer may be just a few days away, and the recreation offerings in his home state that is nicknamed “Vacationland” are innumerable (like lakes and mountains? Maine’s got ‘em; like beaches and the seacoast? A lot of that as well) but Becker knows he also has to put in plenty of work to become a contributor in the NCAA.
“I plan on emphasizing decision-making into my off-season plan. Being able to make both quick and smart plays under pressure is huge in this sport, especially when jumping up from junior to college,” he said. “I also plan on getting much stronger so I can’t get knocked off the puck as easily, and to improve my shot power.”
The USPHL congratulates Nicholas Becker, his family, the Twin City Thunder and New England College.