Spartan existence: Seacoast organization bands youth, college prep teams under Spartan name

By Joshua Boyd

From a player’s first faceoff as a Mite to his last game before college, a hockey player can wear one logo.

The former Seacoast College Prep is now Seacoast Spartans Prep, offering players from under 14 to 19 years old opportunities to progress through the ranks with one organization.

After playing for the Seacoast Spartans youth program, they can join the Seacoast Spartans Prep teams that begin at the U14 full-season Bantam level, progressing up through U16, U18 and the top level for 18-and 19-year-olds, the Spartans college prep team. That top level is specifically designed to develop players to advance directly into NCAA college hockey.

The Spartans have been in existence for decades, starting out in Rochester, N.H. After a move to Dover, the Spartans found a permanent home at The Rinks at Exeter, N.H.

Three years ago, the Spartans’ program changed ownership, and was purchased by a group as part of an overall package that also included The Rinks at Exeter. At the time, Kurt Mallett was coordinating much of the Spartans’ programming, as he had done for many years.

Mallett worked closely with Peter Tufts, who was in charge of tournament development for the Spartans.

“The new ownership was fortunate that they had both Kurt and Peter stay with the Spartans,” said Mike Addesa, college prep director for the Seacoast Spartans.

“At that time, I came together with ownership and they asked me if I would be willing to help them out with a program that would help young student-athlete hockey players develop in a program that would help them gain preferential admissions and financial aid in college,” said Addesa.

This was the birth of what was Seacoast College Prep. In its first year, 2015-16, the college prepprogram fielded a 20-and-under team of players who not only played a full-season schedule, but were heavily recommended to take online college courses to improve their chances of being recruited by NCAA colleges. Five players from that first season earned NCAA Division 3 college commitments.

Last year, the Seacoast College Prep program expanded to include an 18U team. Four more players earned their NCAA tickets and the program now had a feeder program for future college prep squads.

Ready for 2017-18

That all led to the present day. The Seacoast Spartans Prep program has expanded for 2017-18 to now be a four-team program, beginning with the new full-season U14 program, a new U16 program, and the returning U18 and college prep teams.

“Seacoast Spartans hockey will extend from the youngest possible USA Hockey-registered level up through our prep teams,” said Addesa. “Now, we can link it all together.”

“The thought has been there since Day 1,” added Mallett, the U16 Spartans head coach and college prep coordinator. “Spartans is a pretty good name. It’s exciting. We didn’t have Bantam Major U14 full-season teams last year, now we have those. Overall, we’re heading in a good direction.”

The U18 team is back, with Matt Pinchevsky running the bench with new assistant coach Alex Arthur.

“I think uniting the programs really shows a strong sense of alignment,” Pinchevsky added. “It takes away a lot of the guesswork or people asking, ‘Are they connected?’ ‘Is there a developmental ladder?’ This makes things a little more self-explanatory, and shows that our program wants to develop players from Learn to Skate up to college prep.”

The developmental ladder mightkick in as early as this season, as Pinchevsky and Arthur will be working closely with Mallett and assistant coach and college prep scouting coordinator Matt Lavallee.

“The U16 program will be a young program, but they will hear our voices as a U18 coaching staff. They will also work with Coach Therrien,” said Pinchevsky. “I’ve seen organizations where a team’s coaches work with just their group, and this is not one of those organizations. If any U16 player is really playing at a high level, if the shoe fits for them to play games at U18, it’ll be a huge benefit to those players and their families. Once you commit to the Seacoast Spartans, we are committed to developing you, and developing with you.”

Nick Therrien is a former Spartans youth goalie who ended up going on to play for Utica College. Therrien coached at both Buffalo State and Plymouth (N.H.) State during his three-year NCAA coaching career, all as an assistant.

“For me, personally, I’m enthusiastic about my first head coaching opportunity with the program I grew up playing for,” said Therrien. “It’ll be certainly fun getting back out on the ice as the Seacoast Spartans.

“We wanted to make the merger and establish that firm connection,” he added. “We want it to be a very good developmental model, where a player can play their entire career before moving on to a NCAA program.”

Addesa said that the U14 team willgive a chance for Peewee/Bantam-aged players to work their way into the higher levels of the prep program. There, largely 10th-and 11th-grade players will populate the U16 roster. At the U18 level, it will generally be 11th-and 12th-grade players. There will also be Grade 12 players on the college prep team, “but the majority will be post-graduates,” said Addesa.

“These post-grads will be enrolled in college courses online,” he added. “Online education is becoming a very big part of college preparatory hockey. We have now incorporated a beautiful online classroom at The Rinks.

“The link in the program introduces players going into U16 that they should begin to think about what they want to do in life,” Addesa said. “Would you like to proceed in your education, and go into medicine, or business, or be a teacher?”

Mallett can’t wait to see how everything progresses from the ground up at Seacoast Spartans Prep, a program so near and dear to his heart.

“I am very excited about it. We’ve built the Seacoast college prep name the last two years, with the college placements we’ve had. This is a tremendous way to grow,” he added. “It’s great for our older kids, and even greater for the younger kids. Last year, our college prep and U18 kids helped out in practices from Mite on up. Now, with everyone having Spartans jerseys and all of us unified, it makes our brand a world-class program.”