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Kings of the North Country: New Hampshire Monarchs prepare to take next step in development with NCDC team

By Joshua Boyd, 02/02/18, 12:00AM EST


A glimpse into the smartphone calendars of anyone with the New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs would show a small space that simply says “Sleep.”

HOOKSETT, NH -- It’s pretty much a requirement for Monarchs general manager Ryan Frew to make sure they do get some shuteye, as they plan for the Monarchs’ biggest move ever. In 2018-19, the Monarchs will field a team in the tuition-free National Collegiate Development Conference.

“It’s a really exciting time for our program right now. We are elated to have been selected to join the tuition-free league,” said Frew. “It’s been a longtime goal of ours to be able to offer free hockey to players and their families. It’s been a lot of work, preparing for the various drafts, deciding on tenders, and organizing camps. We want to do it all to the best of our ability. You want to get it all right.”

So, up at the Tri-Town Ice Arena in Hooksett, N.H., while it’s the middle of the season for four USPHL Monarchs team seasons, the work also goes into creating the fifth that will be the – pun intended – crowning achievement for the Monarchs.

It takes a lot to overcome prior accomplishments for the New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs. They have alumni with their names on the Stanley Cup (see Brian Dumoulin and Trevor vanRiemsdyk), nine alumni in the NHL, they have four National Championship banners hanging up, 190 NCAA Division 1 placements, hundreds more to the NCAA Division 3 level.

Frew sees it as the culmination of his 14 years with the Monarchs organization to see the program reach the top, tuition-free level of junior hockey.

This will help towards continuing the organization’s shining record of development and promotion.

“It’s important for people to know that we haven’t gone anywhere. The Monarchs have been relevant since the inception of the program. This is one of the most prominent and nationally-recognized brands in junior hockey,” said Frew. “It has mirrored the success of the old regime, and this staff of the last five years has not skipped a beat, in the capacity of a different dynamic and in different leagues.”

The Monarchs were founded in 2001, and under former GM/head coach Sean Tremblay, they won the championship of the old Eastern Junior Hockey League that first season.

Tremblay ran the hockey operations side of the Monarchs for 10 years. Next year, Frew will face his mentor across the ice or over the scorer’s box, as Tremblay now runs the Islanders Hockey Club.

“I’m very grateful and thankful for the nine seasons that I got to work with, and learn from, Sean. He taught me a whole lot about how to do this the right way,” said Frew. “I learned from one of the best. He was and still is a great mentor and friend. We don’t necessarily always do things the same way, but we certainly respect the differences.”

Along with continuing to win league titles (such as the EHL championship in 2016), Frew, his staff and his team made sure the Monarchs were a tangible part of the community – of Hooksett and the surrounding Merrimack Valley area.

“Giving back to the community is one of the most important pieces of our program. We’ve put ourselves right in the heart of it,” said Frew.

The Jr. Monarchs’ community initiatives include “Goals for Reading,” where players bring books to elementary schools and read those to students; adopting a “Make A Wish” child; volunteer hours at local nursing homes; city park clean-up events; and working with the Monarchs youth program at skills sessions.

“Our ‘Make Life Better’ campaign was recognized on a state level,” Frew said. “There has been a direct correlation between our giving back to the community and their giving back to us and it shows in our constantly growing fan base. That makes us unique in our area.”

For his efforts at the head of these community initiatives, Frew was named as a selection in the 2017 40 Under 40, a Manchester Union-Leader feature on “New Hampshire’s brightest young achievers.”

Players from across the Monarchs and West River Royals organizations get together with coaches (including Ryan Frew, third from left) to celebrate Shaw’s sponsoring the organization’s bid for Kraft Hockeyville USA. Courtesy Photo

Taking it up a notch

One of the first big moves the Monarchs made upon being accepted to the NCDC was to expand its scouting staff. The Monarchs want to build their team with the best talent nationwide and internationally that they can find.

“We have added three additional scouts to our staff. As we move to the NCDC, there was a focus on getting eyes in different areas of the country and internationally,” said Frew. “We’re tending to be more creative. We think we can find good players anywhere.”

They took part in their first NCDC Futures Draft on Jan. 31, the first step towards building the new team.

“We’re certainly burning more oil than in years past. We’ve always been a hard-working group, but it’s ramped up to an extreme to make sure we don’t leave any stone unturned,” said Frew. “It’s been fun taking in the different opinions of the scouts. This guy thinks we should draft this guy, this other guy thinks this other kid is a better guy. It’s a breath of fresh air for us and a resurgence of our commitment to do things the right way – and not miss on guys.”

Along with the Futures Draft in January, there will be a larger draft for players expected to step right into the NCDC next year in the spring.

Once those players are officially in the books as members of the Monarchs, they will have at their disposal a wide array of amenities young players have come to expect from the most elite programs in the country. One key ingredient: frozen water, and lots of it.

“The team owner Rick Vega is also the owner of the arena, and that makes it easy to manipulate ways to get extra on-ice time as needed,” said Frew.

“If the ice is open, it’s understood that the ice goes to the Monarchs. The guys can develop, whether skating by themselves or in skills sessions.”

Clint Edinger, who works the bench for the Monarchs Midget teams, is also the organization’s strength and conditioning coach.

“We have a world class off-ice trainer in Clint Edinger. He works with a number of pro athletes with Edinger’s Edge, and his facility has moved into the Tri-Town Ice Arena,” said Frew. “We have a vast range of hockey-specific training off the ice. Our guys have one of the area’s best trainers in Clint, with supervised workouts two to three days per week, and on-ice practice four or five days per week, depending on the game schedule.”

The Monarchs will feature teams at the NCDC, Premier and Elite junior levels of the USPHL, while the 18U and 16U teams will split their seasons between the USPHL Midget divisions and the Tier-1 Elite Hockey League.

“I like what we have in place for our current structure, though we are looking to strengthen our 16U and youth programs to have more players develop in-house and matriculate to the NCDC,” Frew added. “It’s a goal of ours to have players come through the program at younger ages, join our midget teams at 15 or 16 and then move on to the junior teams.”

Playing in the Tier-1 Elite Hockey League truly sets the Monarchs aside, as they are the only USPHL organization that has dual membership in the Tier-1 Elite League.

They will play against storied organizations like Belle Tire, Victory Honda, Pittsburgh Penguins Elite and many others.

“That allows us to get into the market of the Midwestern players and organizations that are really elite in terms of scouting,” Frew added.

The team is also holding an Open Camp, April 20-21 (see accompanying info box).

“We are looking forward to our open camp. Talk about as good of an opportunity that a player will ever have to try to make a team,” Frew said. “We are the only program with 23 empty stalls in the locker room. There are a lot of jobs to be won. If you are a player or family who’s ever wanted to give it a shot, this is the year. Nobody has more openings next season than us."

A New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs player leans over the glass to celebrate with a family member after the Monarchs’ 2016 EHL title win.

The New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs celebrate their most recent league championship, when they took the EHL title in 2016. Courtesy Photos / N.H. Jr. Monarchs

Members of the New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs gather at the Make A Wish Foundation New Hampshire headquarters, as they prepare to Adopt a Make A Wish recipient child.

A family atmosphere of success

The focus for the Monarchs is on building for the NCDC, but they will continue to work with the players they have now to make college hockey futures possible for all players in the organization.

The USPHL Premier Monarchs were 27-5-1 as of Jan. 27, and it was a team full of players with bright futures. The Premier and Elite teams will continue into the 2018-19 season as opportunities for players to make futures and impacts at the NCAA Division 3 level. “We will not lose our focus with the Premier team. We’ve always been a leader in college placements,” said Frew.

“We look at it as the NCDC being our top tuition-free team and our Premier team being our top pay-to-play team. We don’t look at the Premier team as a second-tier team.”

The Monarchs have seen several dozen NCAA Division 3 commitments come from the Premier team (and its EHL predecessor), but there have been NCAA Division 1 success stories out of the teams that Frew has coached.

Brent Beaudoin skated at the Tri-Town Ice Arena from Mites through juniors. He also played a year for Tremblay’s Islanders Hockey Club before joining Brown University and becoming a Hobey Baker candidate.

Brothers Matthew and Alex Steeves are both either with the University of Notre Dame or headed there next year, and both skated multiple seasons for the Monarchs, including playing under Frew.

Matt Quercia was a member of the 2016 championship team, a late-season call-up from the 16U team. Currently in the USHL, he is bound for Boston University next season.

Former Monarch Jacob Theut is currently a goaltender for Northeastern University, as well.

Some of these players moved on to a team between the Monarchs and their final college destinations. The NCDC plan will seek to keep those players under the uniform guidance of the Monarchs right through, sending them directly to college.

“The focus of our organization is to attract players when they’re younger. Division 1 teams want to see younger players playing at the NCDC level,” said Frew. “The younger the NCDC is, the better it will be for the league.”

The Monarchs will announce the 18U and 16U coaches at the conclusion of this season.

“We see a crucial time in improving midget hockey at the 18U and 16U level, so we have to make sure we have the staff and resources towards those aims,” Frew added.

Frew will be the head coach of the NCDC, with help from associate head coach Tony Dalessio and assistant coach Matt Morrow. Morrow will also be head coach of the Premier team. He will run that team with a co-coach to be named later.

The Monarchs believe they have the training, development and community framework in place to bring in players that have the commitment to attain their best in hockey.

“Our focus is constant, never-ending improvement, No. 1,” said Frew. “Secondly, the focus is on the process,
and not necessarily the result.”