Lincoln Hatten got an early introduction to junior hockey while he was just learning to play the game.
The Hattens served as a billet family Allen, Texas, hosting players from around the country who were playing for the Texas Tornado in the North American Hockey League (NAHL).
Now, Hatten is in the role of the junior player, living with a billet family himself far from his Texas home and thriving in the circumstances. The 19-year-old United States Military Academy-committed forward is leading the NAHL in scoring while playing for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights.
“I kind of feel like I learned from my billet brothers,” Hatten said. “I got to see how they acted and how they conducted themselves in an environment like that.”
Hatten said he had several players provide good examples and show him attention as a youngster, who was happy to be spending time around the sport.
“I always had good role models in the house,” Hatten said.
Those players took time to accompany Hatten to some youth hockey practices and he got to follow them to their games. Hatten said he realized before the role reversal that it would have been upsetting to not receive attention from his “billet brothers.”
While living in northeastern Pennsylvania, where he is playing for the Knights for a third consecutive season, Hatten has made sure to spend time with his hosts and it has paid off in his own comfort.
“I feel like part of the family,” he said. “They make it so easy to just focus on hockey and come home to a good environment.”
That on-ice focus has allowed Hatten to lead the league in goals (13) and points (25) through 18 games. And the Knights find themselves in third place in the East Division with 19 points.
Hatten’s entire line is ranked in the top-10 in league scoring.
“We just communicate really well,” Hatten said. “Being with them makes the game so much easier.”
Center Tyrone Bronte, a Bemidji State University commit, leads the NAHL with 17 assists, along with four goals. Left wing Johnny Kaljian, a Northville, MI native, has six goals and 12 assists.
“We all have our own style,” Hatten said. “Tyrone is one of the fastest kids I’ve ever seen.”
The combination is paying off for Hatten.
It’s not the first time he has benefitted from playing in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
Current Cadet Anthony Firriolo, who played in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in 2017-18, was an early roommate of Hatten’s. Firriolo had already committed to Army, allowing Hatten, who has some family military background, to learn more about the military academy.
Hatten soon found out the interest was mutual and accepted an offer to continue his hockey career with the Black Knights. He plans to report next fall.
“I speak for our entire staff when I say that Army is getting both a great player and person in Lincoln,” Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights Knights head coach Tom Kowal said in a story on the league website. “He’s worked extremely hard on and off the ice from day one in Wilkes-Barre and has earned this opportunity to play at the Division I level.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.