S.J. LeComte, of the Wisconsin Rapids Riverkings, has no problem heading east. He’s done it a few times this season, including a Dec. 3 call-up with the NCDC’s Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights. That was his second call-up to the NCDC, where he also played for the Rock Springs Grizzlies, decidedly not east.
His next trip east, however, will be to Winooski, Vermont, where he’ll enroll at Saint Michael’s College. The SMC Purple Knights field an NCAA Division II hockey team in the only conference at that level, the Northeast-10 Conference. The working relationship between LeComte and Saint Michael’s began only this month.
“I began chatting with Saint Michael’s on Saturday, Dec. 2. I spoke with the assistant coach, Lilly Holmes,” said LeComte. “Lilly told me that they’re on the lookout for players who are strong, determined, tough, have grit and can be top goal-scorers, and she mentioned that I’m one of the players they’re looking for to join their team.
“What stood out to me the most about the Saint Michael’s hockey program is that they’re one of the top two schools in their division, and their success in hockey over the past few years is impressive. I’m particularly excited about the team’s achievements,” LeComte added. “On the academic side, I’m equally intrigued by the various business programs they offer and the wide range of opportunities available. It’s not just about playing hockey; it’s also about having solid academic options that align with my interests and goals. I believe Saint Michael’s can provide a well-rounded experience that encompasses both athletic and academic success.”
The two-year Premier forward is looking to major in business at Saint Michael’s, and “although I’m not completely certain about the specific area yet, I’m leaning towards something related to business and sports management.”
With the Riverkings, LeComte has been continuing to push his game to new heights after originally starting in the Premier with the Idaho Falls Spud Kings prior to their move to the NCDC this year. He talks about Head Coach/GM Paul Pechmann and his 1-on-1 work with the players.
“The Wisconsin Rapids RiverKings are a fantastic organization, and Coach Paul has done an excellent job building up the program. Being part of the RiverKings not only provided me with great hockey experiences but also connected me with the community, for which I’ll always be grateful,” said LeComte. “The team genuinely cares about the players’ development, whether it’s moving on to Tier 2, or NCAA or ACHA colleges.
“What convinced me to sign with the RiverKings was Coach Paul’s commitment to help me get a commitment, and the fact that my first billet brother, Jude Ayling from the Spud Kings, plays goalie for the RiverKings,” LeComte added. “I really wanted to play with him again for my age-out year. Returning to Wisconsin was an easy decision because of the great group of guys who share the same goal – winning a National Championship. I’m excited to contribute and help Coach Paul and the RiverKings achieve that.”
So far this year, LeComte has put up a 9-7-16 line through 12 Premier games, alongside his time with two NCDC teams this year.
“I had a great time playing at that level, and I hope I get another opportunity in the NCDC to contribute to a team in the NCDC West,” he added. “I’m grateful for any chances I’ve had or will have. It’s a really good league, and I’m excited to see what the future has in store for both the league and its players.”
Of course, being part of a successful USPHL Premier team helps to provide LeComte with the opportunity to move between teams and levels seamlessly.
“I strongly believe that the USPHL serves as a valuable developmental league, providing crucial experiences to help players adapt to the world of junior hockey. Throughout my time in the league, I’ve noticed a consistent emphasis from coaches on propelling players to the next level,” he said. For instance, the NCDC, USPHL Premier and USPHL Elite together have sent more than 6,200 players to college hockey since the inception of the NCDC in 2017-18.
“What stands out about the USPHL is the visible proof of how players improve and advance. Many Premier players in the league have either committed to schools, showcasing the league’s role in player development, or have been called up to the NCDC, indicating the league’s commitment to pushing athletes to new heights,” LeComte said. “This emphasis on growth and advancement is what makes the USPHL an ideal platform for aspiring players like myself who are looking to advance in the competitive world of junior hockey.”
In terms of his own advancement, LeComte will do everything he can the rest of this season and during the off-season to make himself ready to be an impact player at the NCAA level.
“I plan to enhance my overall skills because there’s always room for improvement. I’ll be focusing on power skating and shooting to match the speed of the game better and fulfill the role of a goal scorer, which is what Saint Michael’s expects from me,” added LeComte.
This will certainly be a life-changing period making the move from juniors to Saint Michael’s College.
“Even though I haven’t had the chance to visit the campus in person, I took an online tour, and I was genuinely impressed by its beauty and inviting atmosphere. Discussing the college choice with former players, as well as getting input from my coaches at the RiverKings, my advisor, and my family, has solidified our collective belief that Saint Michael’s is an excellent match for me,” he said. “The positive feedback from those who know both the academic and athletic aspects of the college has reinforced my excitement and confidence in choosing this school as the right place for me.”
The USPHL congratulates S.J. LeComte, his family, the Wisconsin Rapids Riverkings and Saint Michael’s College for his commitment.