YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (October 6, 2009) – A Youngstown Phantom will soon be stirred into the Beanpot.
Defenseman Luke Eibler has verbally committed to Boston’s Northeastern University and will skate for the Huskies beginning either next year or the fall of 2011. Northeastern is one of the four Boston-area schools that compete in the hallowed Beanpot hockey tournament every February, the others being Boston College, Boston University and Harvard.
“It should be a lot of fun to be a part of that tradition,” Eibler said following Monday’s afternoon practice session at the Covelli Centre. “[Northeastern] is a great school with a lot of new facilities and the program is on the up and up.”
Appropriate that Eibler felt it necessary to say “up” twice, considering the way Northeastern has rebounded in double time the past four winters under the guidance of head coach Greg Cronin. In 2005-06, his first season, the Huskies went 3-24-7 and finished last in the Hockey East conference, but last spring Cronin’s charges posted a 23-9-4 record, placed second in Hockey East and qualified for the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1993-94.
Considering the Huskies’ rapid improvement, it’s quite the compliment that Cronin and assistant Albie O’Connell were so proactive the last couple of months in pursuit of Eibler.
“I visited in August and they called me right after the beginning of [Phantoms] training camp and said they really liked me,” Eibler said. “Then they saw me at the Fall Classic and told me they were going to offer me something and they didn’t want me to look at any other schools.”
Coming out of the Victory Honda AAA midget program in southeastern Michigan, Eibler was considered by many talent evaluators to be the best blueliner at his age in the entire hockey-mad Great Lakes State – a designation that made it only a matter of time before he got a prime collegiate offer.
“Luke got a lot of attention last year,” said Phantoms Associate Coach/Director of Player Development Curtis Carr. “He competes, battles, and has that warrior-type mentality that you love in a hockey player. He had a strong [tryout] camp for us in June and played really well at the Fall Classic and had a lot of schools interested after that.”
One of Luke’s trademarks during the early going in Youngstown has been his propensity to throw the big hit. Opposing forwards have been victimized often for keeping their heads down while handling the puck in the neutral zone, the area in which Eibler is most likely to step up and lower his shoulder.
“Teams are going to have to be aware when Luke is on the ice,” Carr said. “He definitely brings a physical presence.”
Whether Eibler brings the pain for the Phantoms or the Huskies next season depends on the personnel situation at Northeastern in the near future.
“Obviously from our standpoint we’d love to have him back next year,” Assistant GM/Director of Player Personnel Jason Koehler said. “But ultimately it’s going to be up to Luke and what fits best for him.”
Either way, the addition of the rugged Eibler to Northeastern’s rapidly rising ranks will boost the Huskies’ chances to claim the prestigious Beanpot for the first time in more than 20 years. In fact, last season was only the fifth time since 1987-88 that they won their first-round game, thus giving themselves a crack at New England’s most sought after puck prize.
Toppling a college hockey giant like Boston College or defending NCAA champ Boston University for the Beanpot crown would be another step toward making Northeastern a major player on the national stage – no matter whether 2012 or 2013 marks Eibler’s debut at the new Boston Garden.
“If I step up and do well this year and they want me on board [next year], it’ll be great,” Eibler said. “If not, I’ll hold off on school and enjoy another year here.”
(Nathan also is a writer for Maineiacs Post to Post and the Maine Hockey Journal. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)