Connor Senken arrived for his first United States Hockey League season not knowing any of his teammates.
“It was all new,” said Senken. “I was kind of coming in with a blindfold.”
It took conversations with forward Matt Brown for Senken, a native New Yorker, to realize he used to play youth hockey against Brown, who is from northern New Jersey.
Just weeks after reporting to Des Moines during training camp, Senken is quickly settling in with the Buccaneers, who are off to a fast start with some help from Brown as well.
Senken and Brown introduced themselves to the league in a big way at the USHL Fall Classic, claiming two of the three weekly awards for the first week of the season. Senken was named Defenseman of the Week while Brown was named Forward of the Week.
“He’s a very good player,” Senken said of Brown, a 19-year-old UMass-Lowell commit, who had been scoreless in six previous USHL games with the Dubuque Fighting Saints coming into the season. “He had a great weekend. He’s a guy who can score goals, but he doesn’t just score goals, he’s really good in the dirty areas and he’s a great passer.
“I think he’s going to be a key contributor.”
Senken played for the Long Island Gulls in his youth days, while Brown, from Woodbridge, was playing for the New Jersey Avalanche before eventually moving on the New Jersey Rockets program.
Senken came to the USHL with a goal of making his international hockey debut this year by earning a spot on the U.S. Junior Select Team that will compete at the World Junior A Challenge, set for Dec. 9-16, 2018, in Bonnyville, Alberta.
With the entire USHL gathered for the first weekend in Cranberry, Pennsylvania, the defenseman had a goal and an assist last Thursday in a 5-2 win over the Madison Capitols. He subsequently added a goal in a 10-5 win over the Chicago Steel and finished plus-3.
Senken, who will be 19 on Halloween, was the only USHL defenseman to score in both games on the weekend and one of three defensemen with three points.
“I’m an offensive defenseman,” Senken said. “I’m a pretty good skater and have a good first pass. I just try to contribute offense to help the team win. That’s my role.
“I like to contribute on the power play. Our power play was very good this weekend. I feel like that could be a big part of us winning games and we just need to try to continue that.”
Brown was the top scorer at the Classic. After getting his first USHL point with an assist in the opener, he had a hat trick and three assists while making the Buccaneers the highest-scoring team in the opening weekend of play in the 18-team Tier I league.
Senken does not expect the two Players of the Week to have to carry too much of the offensive burden.
“Any one of our four lines could be our top lines and I think that just sort of took control and was why we were successful,” he said.
That was something Senken said stood out to him as soon as he joined his new team.
“One main thing I saw when I got here was the depth that we had,” he said. “There’s no weak lines or weak D pairings or weak goalies.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.
Photo courtesy of Hickling Images.