NCAA leadership is a full-time job for Rampage alum Patterson
There is more to Kevin Patterson than statistics and his junior coach, Scott Langer of the Topeka RoadRunners, made sure Niagara University associate coach Tim Madsen knew it during his recruiting visits.
“When it came to decision time, Scott said, ‘Take this kid. He will be a captain for you at Niagara,’” Purple Eagles coach Dave Burkholder said. “Lo and behold, he is. We need kids to come in and be good citizens and be good students. We felt he would.”
Patterson, a Colorado Springs native, was selected an assistant captain for the 2015-16 season. That came on the heels of the junior defenseman being chosen an Atlantic Hockey Association Student-Athlete of the Year for the second season in a row while also serving in student government and leading community service projects.
“Coach Burkholder stresses academics,” said Patterson. “One of the things we’re most proud of is taking care of the academic side. They also stress community service. When you’re here, you need to support the community that supports you back. What it’s really is doing is developing your character and making you into a more well-rounded person.”
This process was undertaken long before Patterson set foot on the Western New York campus.
“He’s a very mature individual,” said Andrew Sherman, who coached Patterson with the Colorado Rampage. “He focused on getting better every day and he had great leadership qualities. He’s been a captain everywhere he’s played. He wasn’t a player who was slotted or pegged as a star early on, but he developed himself into a Division I prospect through hard work and determination.”
Patterson followed that course in juniors in the North American Hockey League and at Niagara.
“Kevin is the ultimate competitor,” Burkholder said. “He hates to lose, and that’s something you can’t coach. He’s as fierce on Monday as he is on Friday when the refs show up. He wasn’t in the lineup to start his freshman year, but when he got in games, he ran with it. As a sophomore, he emerged as a top defenseman for us.”
Patterson plays a style much bigger than his 6 feet and 188 pounds would lead one to believe.
“He’s a pretty good skater, pretty mobile,” Burkholder said. “He makes up for his size with his headiness, taking away time and space from opponents. When we need a big hit, he’s usually in the middle of it.”
“I try to make sure my first responsibility is the D zone,” Patterson added. “If I do my job in the defensive zone, I can be available in all situations and be prepared in all of them.”
Being prepared was a lesson Patterson said he had driven home during his time playing for the Rampage. It was a building block in his leadership style.
“The biggest thing Coach Sherman taught me was making sure when you’re with a team that you’re upholding that integrity,” Patterson said. “I learned so many lessons of preparedness. As I’ve matured in hockey, I’ve tried to take bits and pieces with me. With the Rampage, it was organization – bringing guys together, making sure we’re on the same page. In junior, it’s being a good example so they know what to do. Scott Langer was a big influence. He taught me to not make knee-jerk reactions. At Niagara, I’ve focused on how to bring energy and motivation every day.
“I like to make sure my actions are following what I’m saying.”
“He’s a special kid,” said Burkholder. “He’s done way more for us than we have for him.”
— Chris Bayee