For the second time in as many summers, a Metro Jets player has committed to a Division III university to attend and play hockey.
Last year, defenseman Vinnie Pietrangelo gave the nod to Finlandia University in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and this past week, Metro forward and alternate captain Justin Bennett announced his intent to play for Concordia University in Mequon, Wis., located just north of Milwaukee.
The Falcons are coached by Tony Hrkac, a former Hobey Baker Award winner and the only coach Concordia has had since the school added men’s and women’s hockey in 2007.
For Bennett, going to Concordia was an opportunity that presented itself during the 2010-2011 season.
“Coach Hrkac got some information on me and called me to talk about my plans for the future,” said Bennett, a 20-year-old native of Brighton, Mich. “At the time, I thought I was going to end up in Wisconsin, but playing for a rival of Concordia. Coach Hrkac and I kept in touch until I made a visit after the season where I was convinced this is where I want to spend my college career.”
Last year with the Jets, Bennett tallied seven goals and 13 assists for 20 points in 41 games, good for seventh on the team in scoring. He played the 2009-2010 year for Monroe Community College in New York, so his time at Concordia will be limited to three years.
Still, he intends to make the years count.
“I know the team had a down year last year and is looking to rebuild and I am hoping I can make a significant splash as soon as I get there,” Bennett said. “I would like to help my team become a competitor, if not a top contender every year. Winning is the only thing I will care about. Coach Hrkac is a proven winner, having an NCAA national championship ring (at North Dakota in 1987), a Calder Cup ring (with the 2004 Milwaukee Admirals) and a Stanley Cup ring (with the 1999 Dallas Stars). There is no doubt in my mind he can turn the program around.”
Bennett said he will major in psychology at Concordia and can’t wait to get started.
“Since I was eight years old, I have known that I wanted to become a psychiatrist,” said Bennett. “I will be taking all the pre-med requirements along with getting my BS in psychology.”
Looking back, Bennett said he owes a great deal of gratitude to the Jets organization, especially head coach Jason Cirone.
“Cirone is a huge chunk, if not the only reason why I am able to move on to the college level,” beamed Bennett. “He showed me my strengths and molded me into a well-rounded hockey player. I owe him everything and he is the reason why everyone present and future should be excited about Jets hockey.”