Grande Prairie, AB – The Grande Prairie Storm of the Alberta Junior Hockey League (AJHL) are proud to announce that 2001-born forward Zachary Okabe (Okotoks, AB) has committed to attend and play for the University of Vermont in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). Located in Burlington, Vermont, the Catamounts play in the very competitive NCAA D1 Hockey East Conference.
“We knew Zachary was a very special player the first time Bomersback and myself watched him skate”, said head coach associate general manager Matt Keillor. “He has made an impression already in the short amount of time he has been here. He makes plays at high speed and he’s exciting to watch. He’s one of those players that puts fans on the edge of their seat when he has the puck. The Storm are very excited to be part of Zach’s development before he heads to Vermont”.
The rookie forward got his first taste of JrA hockey in Grande Prairie’s 3-1 loss to the Prince George Spruce Kings (BCHL) in exhibition action on Tuesday August 29th at Revolution Place. Held pointless in his first game Coach Keillor felt he settled in as the game went on.
“You forget he’s only 16 years old sometimes, but shift after shift he started to hold onto the puck a little longer and keep his feet moving. By the 3rd period he settled right in and started to control his space out there”.
Zach can hardly wait to get another shot at Prince George this Saturday when the Grande Prairie Storm visit the Spruce Kings for the second of their home and home exhibition series.
“I’m was really excited that coach Kyle in Vermont gave me this opportunity so early in my junior career. I was extremely honored to accept a scholarship with UVM, it has been a dream to receive a scholarship from an NCAA school and I’m grateful Vermont was the school that will help me achieve another step in my career. I’m also really excited to spend the next couple years of my life playing for the Grande Prairie Storm and developing as a player every day”
Okabe is the first committed player on the 2017-18 roster but Coach Keillor thinks it won’t be long before we see some more. “NCAA teams are flying into Grande Prairie to watch pre-season games. It’s very exciting for these kids. One of our strengths as a staff are the NCAA careers of Rixy (Michigan Tech), Cosgrove (Northern Michigan) and Bomber (Ferris State). All three have done an excellent job working their connections this summer trying to get our guys names out there. Grande Prairie is an incredible city to play JrA hockey and now players know that you can get scholarship’s here”.
The Storm organization would like to congratulate Zachary and his family on his commitment and look forward to seeing his progression as both a student and athlete.