Was Monday the biggest day of AJ Macaulay’s life?
“I have to say so,” he said.
“I’m super excited. I rather go to a place like that, that suits my personality that is so huge. I think I fit in really well there.”
The 18-year-old defenceman who is about to enter his second season with hometown Bonnyville Pontiacs committed to the University of Alaska-Fairbanks to play NCAA Division I hockey.
He had 14 points in 51 games last season and is poised to take big steps this year, with more ice time and opportunities on the offensive side of the puck.
He’s noticed a jump as well in just the first few exhibition games against the Fort McMurray Oil Barons, paired with newcomers Will Hilfiker and Colt Corpse.
“My progress from last year to this year is huge. I think it’s just the fact that all our systems now are natural. And they just come without having to think about it. It makes playing 100 times easier,” said Macaulay.
“My confidence from this year to last year, I definitely feel it when I watch my game film, it’s, it’s on a totally different level. So that’s definitely something that helped me improve since last year.”
Macaulay joins current Yaks captain Matt McKim who committed to Alaska-Fairbanks late last season.
Scouts stayed in touch with the Pontiacs after McKim committed, and after discussions with the coaching staff in recent weeks, they got in touch directly with Macaulay.
He likes the idea of going to a school that will be less of an adjustment in Alaska than going to a major US city.
“I thought it’d be like one of those ‘we’ll keep an eye on you’ kind of things. Keep in touch and not really talk again. And then next thing you know, I was talking to their head coach and then they said they’re gonna put together an offer and here you are,” he said.
Macaulay and his cohort will have two more exhibition games this weekend against the Lloyd Bobcats–but the news last week which confirmed a regular-season start of Nov. 13, drew a sigh of relief.
“It’s a huge relief. All the guys were thinking we’ll be practicing for however long, just practice, practice, practice, and then that’s where you start to see bad habits,” he said.
“But now that we have a set date, and we have a goal in mind, even from last week, it’s improved the morale in the dressing room so much. I mean, we came here to play hockey, and we’re gonna get that opportunity. Everybody in the dressing room is stoked, and we’re looking forward to the 13th.”
There is still no regular schedule released, but the Pontiacs will be on the road Friday night in Lloyd to play the Bobcats at 7:30pm, before returning home for the rubber match Saturday night at 7:00pm.
You can listen to the games live on Lakeland Connect.