Jared Dempsey made it home to Michigan for less than a week, but that was long enough to make an important adjustment to his wardrobe.
The in-season move from Alaska to Texas required more than a few changes.
“I had to switch my clothes out from hats and gloves to baseball hats and shorts,” Dempsey said. “I had to go home and kind of regroup and that was honestly really nice, getting to see my family and things like that and then get ready to go at Wichita Falls.”
Once Dempsey made the move from the Fairbanks Ice Dogs to the Wichita Falls Wildcats, there was a lot more than his off-ice attire that changed.
After a 2015-16 season that was shortened by injury and a 2016-17 campaign that had an early interruption, Dempsey is thriving with the Wildcats as they battle for the North American Hockey League South Division lead.
Dempsey made the move up from the United States Premier Hockey League last season when he landed in the North American Hockey League by turning a self-promotional email into a preseason tryout. He parlayed that into a spot on the defending Robertson Cup champion Ice Dogs roster.
Playing time, however, was limited and, after just three appearances with Fairbanks, Dempsey was released.
Wichita Falls was the next stop.
“I knew I was joining a top team,” Dempsey said. “Their record wasn’t great, but when we played them in Fairbanks, it was a very, very close, 1-0 game.
“I knew my goalie partner, Evan Moyes, he’s a great kid and he and I had known each other for years. I didn’t think I’d get that opportunity right away.”
Dempsey’s early performance, however, warranted more time in net.
“He’s stepped in and played rock-solid for us,” Wildcats head coach Josh Nelson said. “He’s allowed our team to play with confidence.”
After an early NAHL South Division Player of the Week honor split over November and December, Dempsey continued to excel. He was runner-up for the NAHL Goaltender of the Month honors for December, which were announced Wednesday. Dempsey went 4-1-1 with a shutout, a 1.98 goals against average and a .952 save percentage during the month.
Dempsey, a 19-year-old from Grosse Point Farms, who still has another year of eligibility remaining, recently received his first formal Division I college offer from the U.S. Military Academy.
“Last season, I had kind of high expectations for how things would go; I knew I was going to a team, the Connecticut Junior Rangers in the USPHL, that would have a chance to make a lot of noise,” Dempsey said of his first year of junior hockey. “I got hurt early in the year and was out until January and wasn’t 100 percent until February.
“So, that was tough. To come back and get the opportunity in Wichita Falls to play some games and kind of make a name for myself was very important.”
Dempsey has made moves before and says he was blessed with early opportunities in the sport. He was part of four straight state championship teams while moving among the Detroit areas top youth programs, spending time with Honeybaked, Belle Tire and Little Caesars. He played at the U.S. Select-17s on his way up.
“I was very lucky as a kid,” he said. “My parents gave me every opportunity to pursue any dream I ever had and, with hockey, I started playing Triple-A at nine years old with Honeybaked.”
With good health and available playing time, the 6-foot-3 goalie is showing what he learned through the years, staying big in the net, controlling rebounds and working confidently with the defense in front of him.
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc
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