By Joshua Boyd / USPHL.com
Evan Izenstark put down a life savings of hockey experience to buy into Coach Brett Wall’s vision three years ago when he first signed with the Hudson Havoc. Wall helped develop him into an NCAA hockey-ready player over two of his three years, before former NHL player Dean Talafous took over that development.
Talafous now has Izenstark committed and ready to keep his hockey career going with the man who started it all in Izenstark’s junior career – Brett Wall, now at Lawrence University.
“I first started talking about a possible commitment at Lawrence in October of 2022. Having the previous bond with Coach Wall there was instrumental in my recruitment process as he knows my game from the previous two seasons,” said Izenstark, who describes that game: “A steady defenseman that is responsible in the D-zone, transitions the play quickly, and plays a low-risk team-first game.”
Izenstark, an ‘02 from Northbrook, Ill., finished his regular season career ranked seventh all-time in Havoc games played with 127, and he is their second all-time leading scorer among defensemen with 78 points.
“The Havoc have been great for me. The organization as a whole has really done well to embed its players into the community and it makes it easy for guys to move here, play and grow as a player but more importantly as a person,” said Izenstark. “On the hockey side, with the extremely high level of coaching we have (potentially the most decorated in the league), we are coached in ways that prepare us for roles at the higher levels of hockey. We are pushed every day by the never-complacent coaching staff and they have a fantastic job motivating us and creating our systems of play so we can be successful in our own right.”
Izenstark finished with a +45 rating this season, one of the top 10 ratings by a Premier defenseman this season.
“The coaches at the Havoc find a role for every player that suits his strengths. So each player is allowed to flourish within their own means. In terms of development, our Tuesday practices are all about skill development so the physical is emphasized but the remainder of the practices during the week emphasize more of the cognitive and strategic parts of the game,” said Izenstark. “It has given us the ability to win games, grow our physical skills, and learn different ways to be successful as a team and as individuals.”
He is joining a Lawrence program that is building a new culture under Coach Wall. An NCAA Division III institution, Lawrence has struggled in recent years, not finishing over .500 since the 2011-12 season. USPHL fans might remember Coach Wall leading a first-year Havoc team that went 8-34-2-0, only to see him turn it around to become a second place Midwest West Division squad at 31-11-1-1. Give him time to make Lawrence his team and Brett Wall will build a winner.
“The hockey immediately interested me as I am going to be playing in the toughest conference in Division III hockey. The chance to constantly compete with top schools such as Adrian, St. Norbert, and Lake Forest College was an unbelievable opportunity for my hockey career,” said Izenstark. “Additionally, to have a coach that I know and trust behind me was very important.
“On the academic side, it is a school that has been award-winning in virtually every metric for their academics and has alumni that are extremely distinguished in their careers, so I felt as a competitive student as well as athlete that it would be the perfect place for me.”
Izenstark will take a computer science major when he lands at the Appleton, Wis., campus, “with some emphasis on machine learning and artificial intelligence.”
“What made the commitment official for me was Lawrence being top-notch in the hockey side, combined with being top-notch in the academic side. It just had everything I was looking for in a school so it just made sense,” said Izenstark. “I thought the campus was beautiful and extremely well-kept. All of the buildings are modernized and in great condition, and the facilities that it offered were unlike any other NCAA Division III school. The school atmosphere makes everyone feel like they belong, and I really appreciated that.”
He wants to make sure the Viking faithful appreciate what he’ll bring to the fold when he hits the ice next year, so he’s dedicated to keeping up the work long after the final buzzer for a Havoc game and right up to Game 1 at Lawrence.
“I am working on speeding up my pace of play as the game only gets faster in NCAA, so I am going to need to be able to function at that pace,” Izenstark added.
The USPHL congratulates Evan Izenstark, his family, the Hudson Havoc and Lawrence University for his commitment.