Men’s hockey scores young commitments for the future

Locria Courtright, Assistant Sports Editor

Two 15-year-old hockey players have announced their commitment to Vermont men’s hockey.

Defenseman Austin Cook announced his commitment Nov. 27, according to a tweet by his current team, Selects Hockey Academy at South Kent School in South Kent, Connecticut.

“Congratulations to U-15 defenseman Austin Cook on his commitment to @UVMmhockey!” the team stated in the tweet.

Cook, a native of West Berlin, New Jersey, has posted 13 points in 21 games so far this season, according to the South Kent School website.

Scouting service Neutral Zone rated Cook as a 3.75 star recruit out of a possible five stars.

“[Cook] is a nimble, skilled defender,” Neutral Zone stated. “He plays sound positionally and with pace; [he] can move the puck.”

He earned a B- grade at the World Selects Invitational, where he played for East Coast Selects.

Forward Trevor Smith also announced his commitment to UVM via Twitter Nov. 22, according to Neutral Zone.

“Proud to announce I will be playing college hockey at the University of Vermont,” Smith stated in the tweet. “Thank you to everyone who’s gotten me this far.”

Smith, a native of Raleigh, North Carolina, plays for the U16 team of Skipjacks Hockey Club, a team competing in the U.S. Premier Hockey League’s U16 division out of York, Pennsylvania.

This season, Smith has posted 23 goals and 32 points in 13 games, leading the league in both categories, according to the U.S. Premier Hockey League website.

Hockey runs in Smith’s family; his father, Milt, played four seasons for the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

Neutral Zone rated Smith as a 3.5 star recruit, according to their website.

“[Smith] has great speed, skill and release,” Neutral Zone stated.

Smith participated in USA Hockey’s Boys U15 Development Camp in 2016, where he posted four points in three games, according to USA Hockey.

Smith will start at UVM for the 2020-21 season, while Cook will debut for 2021-22, according to College Hockey Inc.

Vermont hockey recruits at a variety of ages.

Forward Anthony Cipollone committed at the age of 13 in 2015, according to Fox Sports.

Cipollone was the youngest player to ever verbally commit to a Division I hockey school, according to SB Nation College Hockey.

Cipollone’s brother, 18-year-old Joey, is also committed to UVM.

The elder Cipollone currently plays for the United States Hockey League’s Tri-City Storm and is slated to come to UVM next year.

On the other end of the age spectrum, forward Nic Hamre committed to UVM at the age of 20, announcing his commitment Nov. 20, according to the Alberta Junior Hockey League.

Hamre, who plays for the AJHL’s Brooks Bandits, will no longer have junior eligibility after this season due to his age, so he will likely join the Catamounts for 2018-19.

College hockey teams have another opponent in recruitment battles: the Canadian Hockey League.

Because players in the Canadian Hockey League receive a financial stipend, they are ineligible for NCAA competition, as they are considered professionals.

UVM recently lost a recruit to the Canadian Hockey League route.

Forward Orca Wiesblatt committed to UVM Oct. 10, 2016, according to EliteProspects, an online hockey resource.

Wiesblatt, whose older brother Ocean is also a UVM commit, signed with the Canadian Hockey League’s Calgary Hitmen Oct. 28, forfeiting his college eligibility

The UVM coaching staff cannot comment on recruits until they have signed a National Letter of Intent and are admitted to the University, according to UVM athletics.