Every road to Division 1 college hockey is different.
Compared to most New England-based players, Merrimack junior Alex Jefferies (Lunenburg, Mass.) and sophomore Matt Copponi (Mansfield, Mass.) took the road less traveled in moving straight from the prep school ranks to the rigors of Hockey East.
Of course, so many of our region’s prospects hone their skills at the prep level, but junior hockey often is an intermediate step where players aim to get stronger, shoot harder and develop their overall skill-set before settling into the faster-paced college game.
“They both had really big years (as prep seniors), so we said, ‘Why would we want them playing junior hockey? We needed the (offensive skill) on our team and they’d be playing and not watching,’ ” Merrimack coach Scott Borek (Swampscott, Mass.) said. “In both situations, it was partly because of the work they had done the year before but also where we were as a program at the time.”
The bond between Jefferies and Copponi has benefitted the Warriors and has grown even stronger this season, as the duo skates on a productive line with Otto Leppannen, a former 30-point scorer and assistant captain for Rensselaer. Leppanen provides the group with a most veteran presence, as he is one of five graduate transfers on the roster.