In the months before Joe Wegwerth uprooted his entire life to join USA Hockey’s renowned National Team Development Program, the ambitious 16-year-old from Brewster was concerned about the degree of difficulty he might experience on the ice.
Turns out, that was the easy part.
“I really had a hard time for the first month, adjusting to a new place, adjusting to a new school,” Wegwerth said. “All of a sudden, your family isn’t around. The good thing was I got to be with teammates every day, and they became my family. Pretty soon, I was just going to the rink with the boys.”
And that’s always been the routine.
On the ice, Wegwerth found himself in stride with some of the best players in the country right from the start. The adjustments that needed to be made against USHL competition were made quickly and he fit in well right up to the point where the recurrence of a leg injury he suffered originally last summer landed him on the shelf until mid-January.
Somewhere along the way, he impressed a college scout or six.
Wegwerth made a verbal commitment to play at Notre Dame a week ago, which allows him to move forward with the most pressing question about his promising future answered.
He also considered Cornell, Northeastern and UMass.
“All of them are great schools and they were so nice to me and my family, but we felt Notre Dame was the best place to further my education and my hockey,” said the Brewster native who was the leading goal-scorer in Section 1 last season. “I first visited three years ago, and as soon as you walk on campus, there’s a special atmosphere. It was another opportunity I couldn’t pass up, I’m really excited.”
Wegwerth is going to land in South Bend in 2014 or 2015.
“It depends on who leaves and who stays there,” he said. “And how I play next year will be a determining factor.”
He’s been living up to high expectations.
“Joe’s a good kid, a real good leader who just works his tail off,” said Danton Cole, who is the head coach for the U-17 team, which is based in Ann Arbor, Mich. “Guys like that usually come in and adjust quickly to the workload and the pace. Joe is realizing how big and strong he is as a power forward. He’s got real good hands. He’s got an offensive mind. He’s going to be a load; very hard to handle.”
Wegwerth, a lefty who stands 6-foot-3 and carries 210 pounds, had seven goals and five assists in 17 games before the leg injury became an issue.
I love this,” he said of the experience. “Every day you wake up and go to the rink and you know that you’re getting better. You have to have a thick skin, but I never imagined that I would get better this fast. There are so many guys here to push you, I couldn’t ask for a better situation.”
In the crease: With a win over Clarkstown this week, Suffern upped its winning streak against Rockland County foes to 23 games. … Scarsdale’s first line — Matthew Blakely, James Nicholas and Devon Schell — has combined for 15 goals and 20 assists in four games. … Suffern and Pelham meet on Friday at Sport-O-Rama in a battle of reigning Section 1 champions.