Mansfield continues march to West Point
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With his NCAA Division I commitment squared away, Ian Mansfield can now focus on improving his game and helping the Odessa Jackalopes move up the North American Hockey League (NAHL) standings.
Earlier this season, Mansfield, a 20-year-old Lakewood product, chose to continue his academic and playing career next year at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point (Army).
Mansfield said he started to think about Army as a college option after joining the Jackalopes midway through last season from the United States Hockey League (USHL).
“I was first introduced to the idea after talking to my assistant coach, Craig Sarner, whose son attended the Academy,” said Mansfield.
Last summer, Mansfield participated in the Chowder Cup tournament in New England where one of Army’s coaches saw him play. Mansfield stayed in contact with the Black Knights’ staff over the summer and went on his visit in the fall.
“After the visit, I knew that’s where I wanted to be,” he said. “There are so many positives that come with attending the Academy, like getting a world-class education while playing Division I hockey, but the main thing is getting to serve our nation; it’s humbling to be given that opportunity.”
During his minor hockey career growing up in Colorado, Mansfield played for the Denver Jr. Pioneers, Arvada Hockey Association and 14U, 15U and 16U AAA with the Colorado Thunderbirds. After his 16U season, he was drafted by the USHL’s Sioux Falls Stampede.
“My 15U and 16U years were great for me, developmentally,” Mansfield said. “John Seymour was the coach my 15U year and Scott Smith was my coach my 16U year, and both had great influences on my development and provided me the opportunity to have two solid seasons to prepare for juniors.”
Now entrenched amongst the Jackalopes’ group of forwards, Mansfield is anxious to help the team correct its early-season woes.
“We’ve struggled to win games, but we’ve been competitive. We have a good squad with hard-working guys,” said Mansfield. “I think I’ve been consistent, contributing speed and a power-forward type of offense.
“I’ve definitely developed my game over the course of my junior career and can really start to see the results in the way I play the game.”
And he couldn’t be happier to call Odessa home.
“The ownership and organization are very professional and they really take care of you down here,” Mansfield said. “The coaching is also great; our head coach, Greg Gatto, is one of the best I’ve had in my hockey career. He pushes you and holds you accountable and will work with you and put in the time to develop you as a player.
“It’s such a great organization because you play in an environment that values you as a person. You get gear, food and everything else that’s needed throughout the season, and you’re surrounded by genuine people. It’s a great environment to be in.”
And with Army waiting in the wings, Mansfield can take the ice daily not having to worry about the stress that comes with the recruiting process.
“Having the commitment is definitely a weight off my chest and it’s nice to be able to just focus on improving my game without the extra pressure,” he said.
“It’s also easier to just have fun on the ice and enjoy the game. It’s very easy to get tunnel vision throughout the grind of junior hockey. You can forget why you play the game in the first place.”
– Matt Mackinder