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North Carolina Local Hockey Spotlight: Making a Splash in Division 1

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A pair of former Junior Hurricanes prove that going from North Carolina to Division 1 hockey is anything but a pipe dream.

Billy Christopoulos (44, left) is one of a growing number of players who have made the move from North Carolina to top-level NCAA hockey.
Richard T. Gagnon/Getty Images

Hockey is a great game with many different paths to success. The well-known junior ranks, which groom players into the life-style of being a professional hockey player, comesto mind first for most of the hockey community. Leagues like the WHL, OHL and the QMJHL are all premier examples of talent hot-beds. Scouts have salivated over players like Connor McDavid, Patrick Kane and John Tavares who cut their teeth in the CHL.

Another path can be a bit more difficult, but that’s the one two former Junior Hurricanes have decided to pursue. The NCAA game is different than that of Major Junior hockey. Where CHL players age out at 20 years old, NCAA players are often 24, 25 and even 26 on some D-1 teams. The age gap of 18-26 allows players to fight for room on the ice with grown men who have played the game for as many as five years longer than others. There is also the rigor of college coursework that forces players to take time away from the game.

Raleigh’s Billy Christopoulos (that’s a mouth-full) is adding another layer of difficulty by also attending the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado. By choosing to go to the AFA, Christopoulos also has to focus on the difficult and responsible task of training to become an officer in the United States Air Force. Christopoulos is a former U-16 Junior Hurricane who also has made stops in the USHL and BCHL. The 6’2” goalie is the starting goalie for the Falcons this season after backing up last year, playing in all 18 games while posting a 7-8-3 record.

Christopoulos isn’t the only Junior Canes alum playing for a military academy. Army Defenseman Alexander Wilkinson is currently putting up impressive numbers for the 8-8-2 Army Black Knights with a 4-8 (12) slash line. He is another example of Carolina groomed talent who are showing they can contribute at multiple levels.

Now for some local news for teams in the area;

  • The Carolina Eagles Premier Squad is currently riding a five-game win streak, most recently beating the Daytona Racers 3-1 with Alex Lazier, Verners Fricbergs and Brandon Halvorsen picking up goals. The 21-9-0 Eagles dont play again until January 6 when they play Hampton.
  • The AA Junior Hurricanes recently wrapped up a tough four-game run in the South Bend Green Cup Showcase. The 18U team went 1-3 while picking up a victory against the Colorado Evolution 2-1.

Please continue to reach out to me with any information you feel should be spotlighted in this thread. The round-up is for you the fans and players after all! I’m available at lcgoff11@gmail.com and @LC2point0 on Twitter.