By Joshua Boyd / USPHLPremier.com
What’s better to help your cause for an NCAA commitment than winning the USPHL Premier National Championship? The “Nationals bump” sure was a thing when it comes to Northern Cyclones forward Connor Crawford, whose conversations with Boston’s Suffolk University almost immediately after he lifted the Premier Cup.
Just being able to lift that Cup itself was a bit of a miracle.
“I first started talking to Suffolk the day after winning the National Championship. I had reached out during the season my interest, but still had to prove myself throughout the rest of the year,” said Crawford. “Unfortunately, I broke my back in late January, causing me to miss crucial games and recruiting at the end of the year. After having surgery to repair my L3 on my spine, I was able to rehab and return to ice in time for the National Championships, only about two months after my injury.”
“I was given Coach Shawn McEachern’s number and was able to talk with him about possibly playing at Suffolk. From our conversations, he was excited about my size, speed, my competitive nature, and overall love for the game of hockey,” added Crawford, an ‘02 native of Troy, Mich., who played in his second Premier season and first with the Cyclones in 2022-23. He was very succinct in his thoughts on the Northern Cyclones as an organization and a Premier team:
“Two Words: National Champions.”
He also added some other kind words for the Premier’s reigning No. 1 team operating out of Hudson, New Hampshire.
“Not a single organization works harder for their players in their growth and development on and off ice. Facilities are incredible, with the addition of more buildings around the dorms,” said Crawford. “The Cyclones will be the pinnacle of junior hockey development for years to come.”
After playing in 29 games during the regular season due to his injury, Crawford was able to get back into seven postseason games, en route to the Cyclones sweeping the Nationals 6-0 for the title victory.
“Winning the title this year in my age-out season meant absolutely everything, especially with the exceptional group of guys we had. Our commitment to each other every day to compete and get better showed in the end,” added Crawford. “There was never a dull moment whenever that was at the rink, or at the dorms where most of the team lived. Our season could not have been scripted any better, as after every loss, we learned and grew from our mistakes. We knew it was destined to be National Champions, but it is an extremely fulfilling and gratifying feeling winning the title this year.”
Crawford also went on to detail all the different ingredients that the Cyclones throw into transforming their players into NCAA recruits who can also win in the clutch for a championship.
“The Northern Cyclones should be the standard of development, and overall growth as a hockey player and person. After playing in multiple junior leagues and teams, the coaching staff and ownership does a fantastic job at finding, producing, and moving on talent at all levels. And the results further prove my point, with all three junior teams finishing on top of their divisions for the regular season.
“The support the Cyclones offer at all levels is incredible. With the Cyclones Academy for the kids who are still in school, to coach Fred Hein and his on-ice skills development, and finally our personal trainer Paul Andre. There is every tool you need as a hockey player to succeed at your highest potential,” he added. “Coach Bill Weiand is one of the hardest working, committed coaches I have ever come across. From the first moment we connected, I could tell he was different from the rest. His knowledge of the junior and collegiate level is incredible, and his mindset of ‘never being perfect’ is something I live by every day. I could not be more thankful for everything he has done for me and can tell you that the Northern Cyclones will be a powerhouse organization for years to come.”
The Cyclones were also regulars on the USPHL’s unrivaled Showcase Series circuit, including hosting their own event in January that featured New England Division teams facing Mid-Atlantic Division squads at the USPHL Premier and USPHL Elite levels. The Cyclones had also hosted the 2022 USPHL National Championships.
“The USPHL does an incredible job giving opportunities to players that pursue college hockey. With the league now across the entire country, it has helped draw a ton of attention to the players,” added Crawford. “Having played in two of the divisions, the USPHL is doing an excellent job of growing the game of hockey and bringing together divisions for great competition. I had received most of my college looks from showcases, so I could not thank the league enough for the opportunity given during my junior career.”
He also has the blueprint to follow in terms of making himself into an impactful NCAA rookie this upcoming season.
“This off-season, I am continuing to build on my shot, balance, and edgework,” he added. “Most of my summer, though, will be spent in the gym to be stronger and heavier, as college hockey is a more physical and faster game.”
It was very convenient for Crawford to visit his future home city of Boston, as Hudson is only about 40 miles north of “Beantown.” He will also be able to soak in the wisdom from Coach Shawn McEachern, an alum of more than 1,000 combined regular season and playoff games in the NHL between 1992 and 2006.
“Since Boston was only an hour drive from where my team lived this year, we often made the drive down to explore the city. After finding and exploring Suffolk, I was in love with the idea of going to school in a city,” he added. “The Suffolk campus is engulfed in historic buildings, only a couple blocks away from hundreds of businesses and history. As I am going into school as a 21-year-old, the idea of having a very city-like environment was a dream. The campus itself is very unique, as there are many different living arrangements and academic buildings, all within a couple blocks from each other. It was an easy decision to commit to Suffolk, as after my visit with Coach McEachern, I took his offer on the spot.”
Crawford is hoping to become a high school counselor in the future, and thus is pursuing a psychology degree at Suffolk.
“I admired and looked up to my counselor throughout high school and want to be able to have that type of impact on kids someday,” added Crawford.
The USPHL congratulates Connor Crawford, his family, the Northern Cyclones and Suffolk University for his commitment.