Brockport hockey captain skates his way to pros
Senior and Brockport hockey captain Mike Hayward signed with the Mississippi RiverKings Friday, Feb. 22 and made his Southern Professional Hockey League debut later the same night. Hayward had five shots on goal and two penalty minutes during his first two games last weekend. File photo, spring 2011
After many years of playing hockey and hard work, Mike Hayward's dream has been accomplished. Less than a week removed from his final college hockey game, the Golden Eagles captain made his professional hockey debut Friday, Feb. 22.
The Mississippi RiverKings of the Southern Professional Hockey League announced Hayward had been signed to a contract earlier in the day Friday. The terms and conditions of the contract were not released.
"I signed with 11 games left in the season plus playoffs so I hope to be here until the end of the season," Hayward wrote in an email after his first game. "That being said, it is a business, so nobody's position is permanent. I'm just trying to work hard, do my best and make the most of this great opportunity."
Hayward played two games in his debut weekend, both against the Fayetteville FireAntz. He had five shots on goal and two penalty minutes.
"At this point it all seems surreal," Hayward wrote. "It was such a quick turnaround from the end of the Brockport season. One night I'm realizing the end of my college career and the next I'm getting a call from a pro hockey team.
"It's all pretty exciting though, I'm just trying to take it all in. I've been getting a lot of support from everyone at home and back in Brockport."
Hayward joins former teammate Ian Finnerty, who signed with the RiverKings as a free agent before the season began. Finnerty played at Brockport from 2008-12.
Hayward played 99 games during his career with the Eagles, scoring 14 goals and registering 41 assists. He was named to the SUNYAC All-Conference second team following his junior season.
Eagles Head Coach Brian Dickinson said he felt Hayward played well enough this season to get named to another All-Conference team.
"I thought that the way [Hayward] plays and the amount of minutes he plays, along with his reputation, would've got him another selection this year," Dickinson said after SUNYAC released its All-Conference teams Wednesday, Feb. 20.
In fact, Dickinson said he was surprised that no Brockport player was named to an All-Conference team. SUNYAC names three teams consisting of six players each as All-Conference, and this is the first time since the 2005-06 season that the Eagles did not have a player named to any of the teams.
Regular season conference champion and nationally ranked No. 3 Oswego had six players named to an All-Conference team, the most of any team in the SUNYAC. Brockport and Fredonia were the only programs that did not have a player chosen.
"I'm disappointed that we didn't place anybody [on any All-Conference team]," Dickinson said. "I'm sure you have some coaches looking at points or picking players from the best teams, so it can sometimes be a crap-shoot when it comes to voting for All-Conference teams."
Coaches from around the conference vote to pick All-Conference teams. Dickinson said when he votes for conference teams, he looks at more than just points.
"Throughout the year I'm watching how other players are doing," he said. "After games you'll see me talking during handshake lines to get to know other players and coaches. I always make a point to know other players on a personal level."
Along with Hayward, Dickinson said he was surprised freshman goalie Jared Lockhurst did not make an All-Conference team.
Lockhurst, who missed seven games this season due to a high ankle sprain suffered against Elmira, was ranked highly on several SUNYAC lists. He was fifth in save percentage and sixth in goals against average.
Mathieu Cadieux (Plattsburgh) earned the first team selection for goalie, while Kevin Carr (Buffalo State) and Andrew Hare (Oswego) were given second and third team honors, respectively.
"I thought Jared could have been on the third team," Dickinson said. "I think Cadieux was the best goalie in the SUNYAC this season and Carr had himself a great season too, but I thought Jared could have edged out Hare."
Dickinson said he felt part of the reason no one from the Eagles made an All-Conference team was because they missed the playoffs. This marks the third straight season Brockport has missed the SUNYAC tournament.
Following Hayward and fellow senior Colby Spooner's departures from the team, there will be no players on the roster who have been to the postseason with the Eagles.
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