By Joshua Boyd / USPHLPremier.com
The USPHL Premier National Championship Trophy is in Hudson, N.H., where Northern Cyclones forward Garrett Conner certainly feels it has always belonged. Though it was a tough road to bring it home – especially considering the Cyclones were 7.2 seconds from elimination in the semifinal round – Conner is exhilarated with the new title of National Champion.
“Our drive to win came from our coaches and captains. We work and live together all year. We came out of a tough division and dropped a game in the second round,” said Conner. “I think that prepared us more than some other teams, since we knew how to play together with our backs against the wall.”
Backs now free to get some spring and summer sun, Conner also knows there’s work to be done ahead of the start of his NCAA hockey career with Framingham State University this fall.
“I began talking with Coach [Mike] Bailey about a possible commitment in mid-February. Coach Bailey said he loved my effort and willingness to play in the dirty areas of the ice,” said Conner, a 2002-born native of Hendersonville, Tenn.
Late fellow Hendersonville resident Johnny Cash may have been (and will forever be) The Man In Black, but it’s Black and Gold going forward for Conner.
“What first caught my interest on the hockey side of Framingham State was the conference they played in, I knew the MASCAC was a competitive conference that complemented my play style,” said Conner, who scored 29 points in 43 games and added three points over 11 grueling postseason games. “Academically, I became interested after seeing FSU’s wide range of majors. I haven’t chosen my major yet, FSU carries both Business and Data Analytics, and it will likely be either of those.”
Framingham, located conveniently off Interstate 90 just over 20 miles from Boston, will provide a great setting for Conner to continue his academic and hockey life.
“My visit played a massive role in my decision to commit. I was able to walk the campus in person and see the gym, classrooms, dorms, and cafeteria. The atmosphere was friendly and all the buildings seemed newly renovated,” added Conner.
With the Cyclones’ multiple facilities for athletic and academic achievement, as well as their player dormitory, Conner has also been in a very college-like development environment.
“The Cyclones give you all the tools to develop your game with an open gym, and routine skills skates during the season to sharpen every aspect of your game,” said Conner.
“I was only able to spend one year with the Northern Cyclones but I wish I’d had another. My coaches Bill Weiand and Fred Hein truly cared about you as a person and a player,” he added. “You have anything you need at your disposal while playing there, from a gym, athletic trainer, daily practices, and a full time staff. Living in the dorms truly brings the team together as you get to build a friendship with everyone on the team.”
Having moved from the NA3HL to the USPHL Premier, from which he was able to make his NCAA commitment, he was very impressed with the league and its dedication to moving players to the next level in their hockey career.
“The USPHL Premier does a great job of getting you attraction from schools with showcases during the year and competitive hockey all year long,” he added.
As mentioned, even with the National Championship trophy taking up residence in Hudson and ring sizes being taken, work must be done to be ready for the rigors of a faster, more physically demanding college hockey future.
“This summer I am going to focus mostly on speed and strength,” said Conner. “Players at the next level are going to be stronger and faster and I need to prepared for my first year of college hockey.”
The USPHL congratulates Garrett Conner, his family, the Northern Cyclones and Framingham State University.