By: Kinsey Janke
If a hockey player is skilled enough and destined for more than just their local rink or bantam practice, there always comes a time when a choice must be made: College hockey or major juniors? The choice is one that runs on an endless cycle every year, never slowing. Every player makes a decision, and every player does it for different reasons.
Signed as a free agent this summer by the Rampage, blueliner Denny Urban is no stranger to the NCAA vs. major junior debate. The 25-year-old Pittsburgh native chose to go the collegiate route, spending four full seasons with the Robert Morris University Colonials, a Division I program based in Urban’s hometown. An accounting major, Urban wore the “A” his senior year, and is atop the RMU scoring charts by a defenseman, tallying 112 points in 136 career games.
Though many players choose to skip over college and go straight to juniors, the allure of the NCAA has grown brighter in recent years. NHL staples like Kevin Bieksa, Ryan Miller, Martin St. Louis, Jonathan Toews, and Jonathan Quick all spent time in Division I programs, benefiting from the extra years of development as well as the added bonus of receiving an education.
After scoring a shootout goal in Wednesday’s Silver and Black scrimmage, Urban shed some light on why he chose college, and how he’s adjusted his game to stay ahead.
San Antonio Rampage: Why did you choose to complete your college education instead of going the major junior route?
Denny Urban: I just wanted to make sure I have a fallback plan. You’re not going to be able to play hockey your whole entire life, so I just wanted to make sure I went to school and had a degree in case hockey didn’t work out.
SAR: You’re physically a little smaller than your average defenseman at 5-foot-10. How does that affect your game and what have you done to kind of work around that and show that it doesn’t really matter?
DU: Probably the biggest thing was, you know, it took me a little while to figure out that I wasn’t going to be able to outmuscle the bigger guys. I had to use my quickness and ability and beat guys to where they wanted to go. I can’t outmuscle everyone, but being smaller and quicker, you can beat guys to the position. That’s a way that I feel like I try to defend – take away the guy’s ice and try to beat him with my quickness.
SAR: How did it feel out there today in the scrimmage?
DU: It felt pretty good. We’re learning new systems, [there’s] a lot of new faces. Lot of guys playing with new people that they’ve never played with before, so I think it was a step in the right direction. We did well, and I think more great things will come.
SAR: Your shootout goal must have felt nice.
DU: Yeah, it was. It was pretty nice. I just closed my eyes and shot.
SAR: What is your favorite hockey memory?
DU: It would probably have to be my junior year in college [at Robert Morris University]. We played the number one ranked team, Miami of Ohio. They’re a big name school, and Robert Morris is pretty small. They came down to Pittsburgh, we beat them there. People were saying that maybe it was a fluke, but then we went up to Miami and swept them. Sweeping the number one team in the nation really put us on the map and really helped out the program.
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