Each step Lucas Bahn takes puts him closer to realizing a dream of playing Division I college hockey.
The former Hendersonville High hockey player took a big step over the weekend, announcing his verbal commitment to the University of New Hampshire via Twitter on Saturday evening.
In doing so, he became the first Commando to commit to an NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) Division I program.
Bahn, a 16-year-old defenseman, recently finished his season with the Skipjacks Hockey Club, an independent club based in Maryland that competes in the United States Premier Hockey League (USPHL).
“Everything just seemed right at the time,” Bahn said. “I had a good season with the Skipjacks and learned more about the college route.”
Recently, Bahn visited the New Hampshire campus and came away impressed.
“Everything was incredible about the campus,” Bahn said. “The hockey rink was awesome. It was huge. The rest of the campus was awesome too. There’s about 13,000 students there.
“The bigger thing for me was (that) hockey was the sport on campus. Everybody loves hockey, and everybody goes to the games.”
Honored to announce my commitment to the University of New Hampshire. Thank you to everyone that has helped me along the way. #GoWildcats— Lucas Bahn (@BahnLucas) March 27, 2016
Bahn played his freshman season with the Commandos before moving to Maryland to suit up for the Skipjacks’ 16U (16-and-under) squad. After injuries hit some of the club’s 18U defensemen, Bahn was called up for nine games near the end of the season. Bahn scored 16 points (on three goals and 13 assists) in 26 games with the 16U squad before his call-up.
“It was really good,” Bahn said of his time with the 18U club. “The only real difference is the guys are a little bigger and stronger. So, you have to change your game to fit that model, but I had fun with it.”
He had to adapt quickly to the speed and size that 18U players tend to have. At 5-foot-7 and 150 pounds, he was giving up some muscle to older players.
“You just have to make quick plays,” Bahn said. “It’s not too big of a jump. The biggest difference is definitely the speed.
“The guys in Maryland are definitely much faster.”
Bahn stays with a billet family (a host family for out-of-state players) from September until March while the hockey season progresses. For a teenager, that can be quite the challenge in itself. However, Bahn is coping with the changes.
“It was definitely hard at first, moving away from home,” Bahn said. “But it was perfect for my development. It’s really paid off.”
During his freshman season at Hendersonville, Bahn had nine assists over 18 regular-season games before scoring six points (three goals and three assists) in the playoffs.
Prior to his time with the Commandos, Bahn played two seasons with the Nashville Jr. Predators, scoring 24 points (seven goals, 17 assists) over 110 games.
“I had great coaches (with the Jr. Preds) that I still keep in contact with, Kyle Jennings and Brad Stoffers,” Bahn said. “They were just awesome guys that really helped me start on my way to getting better and going on to bigger things.”
Bahn said he found one National Hockey League player in particular which he shared some similar physical traits.
“I’m still a smaller guy, especially for a defenseman,” Bahn said. “The coaches always say that my speed and skating makes up for my size, so that’s a big thing. A guy that I kind of look up to in the NHL would be (Boston Bruins defenseman) Torey Krug. I think he’s only 5-8, a smaller guy too.”
UNH finished with an 11-20-6 record this season, going 4-12-6 in Hockey East conference play.
Head coach Dick Umile just completed his 25th season at the helm, compiling a 571-333-103 record over that span. The Wildcats have made four NCAA Frozen Four (national semifinals) appearances, have earned 17 NCAA Tournament berths and have compiled 22 Hockey East tournament championships under Umile.
“That’s a lot of good experience,” Bahn said. “I met with the assistants as well, and the whole coaching staff. They were just sharp guys. They really know what they’re doing.”
Bahn – who won’t be a freshman at New Hampshire until the 2018-19 season – expects to play next season with the U18 Skipjacks before taking another major step in his development if all goes well.
“Hopefully, depending on my development, I’ll go play juniors in one of the Tier 1 leagues – either the USHL (United States Hockey League) or BCHL (British Columbia Hockey League),” Bahn said. “I’ll still keep my college eligibility and probably play a year or two of juniors and then go to UNH.”
Reach Chris Brooks at email@example.com or at 615-575-7118. Follow him on Twitter @CB_SumnerSports.