By Joshua Boyd / USPHLPremier.com
The Salem State University Vikings are about to get a real Rocket boost to their defensive corps. The Vikings will welcome in two-year USPHL Premier veteran defenseman Josef Slepica, who closed his time in the league with the Rockets Hockey Club.
Slepica, an ‘02 born in Crosby, Minn., said that the conversations with the eastern Massachusetts school began this past winter.
“I started talking with Coach [Jimmy] Currier in early January about a visit to campus. The coaches said they liked my poise and vision,” said Slepica, who posted eight points in 41 games on the blue line with the RHC.
“Salem State really appealed to me on the hockey side because of their longstanding and well-established hockey program, of which it is a huge honor to be a part,” said Slepica. “Additionally, having a rink on campus is a huge plus. Academically, Salem is a perfect fit for my major and career choice. I will be majoring in History with hopes to become a high school teacher.”
You could do a lot worse than studying history in Salem, Mass., whether it be the infamous Witch Trials of 1692 to its world-renowned status as a leading port in 18th-and 19th-century trade with China and other Asian countries.
And then of course, there’s Salem in October. Its association with witches (the local high school sports teams’ nickname) has turned the city into a big Halloween theme park of sorts for the entire 31-day month, attracting more than 900,000 tourists in October in recent years.
“I was able to go on a visit in January and was really impressed by the campus,” said Slepica. “It’s laid out nicely with lots of beautiful buildings and it’s in a really cool part of Massachusetts. I decided to make my commitment official after I talked everything over with my parents and coaches and figured out that it was going to be a good fit for me.”
This will just be in another stop for the well-traveled Slepica, who came out of Northern Lakes High School in his native Minnesota to Brantford, Ont. (birthplace of Wayne Gretzky), back to Minnesota to play for the Blue Ox in the Premier and then out to Bridgewater, N.J., this past year with the Rockets.
“RHC was great to me and provided us with good facilities throughout the year. Our coach, Jason Kilcoyne was really the most outstanding part of my experience at RHC. I can’t say enough about him and all he did for all of us last season,” said Slepica. “Coach Kilcoyne really pushed our defensemen to be a bigger part of the offense, which was a huge challenge for me because that’s never really been my game but throughout the season, I was able to train and develop some different skills that I never would have had it not been for Coach Kilcoyne.”
The Vikings were similarly impressed with what the Rockets brought to the ice, as Slepica will be joined in Salem by Rockets forward Jake Stapert this coming season. Slepica certainly gives credit to the USPHL, as well, for putting them in a great place to showcase what they can do within the league’s active USPHL Showcase Series.
“The USPHL provides tons of great exposure and advancement opportunities for kids looking to pursue college or Tier-II hockey,” said Slepica. “I’m very grateful for my time in the league with two great organizations.”
It’s now down to him, back in his Minnesota home, to do what is needed to be ready for a busy first NCAA season upcoming.
“This summer I’m focusing on my offensive skill set so I can be ready to contribute on both ends of the ice,” added Slepica.
The USPHL congratulates Josef Slepica, his family, the Rockets Hockey Club and Salem State University for his commitment.