By Joshua Boyd / USPHLPremier.com
When Shane Buckley took the head coaching job with the NCAA’s Northland College this summer, John Leppert was more than happy to follow one of his favorite coaches. The two had many conversations and connected to the point where Leppert was previously heading to a different school to there with Buckley, before the job change.
“What interested me about Northland was that Coach Buckley had transferred over to the Lumberjack squad. I feel he is a very honest and trustful coach,” said Leppert, a three-year USPHL Premier defenseman. “The staff at Northland as well was, and has been, a huge help in my late commitment process. Northland is a smaller private school so I feel I will receive a better education from their hands-on professors.”
He went on to talk about his season-long conversations with Buckley, who was at the time with West Virginia University, of the ACHA. With the commitment to Northland, located in Ashland, Wis., he is excited to be able to continue his career in the Badger State.
“I spoke with Coach Buckley for the entire 2022-2023 season as he was previously head coach of WVU. We first spoke about me playing for and attending WVU. He then got the coaching job at Northland. We spoke all season and I really liked him and how upfront he was and is,” said Leppert, a native of East Northport, N.Y. “A spot opened up and he offered me the opportunity to come play for him. He’s always complimented my vision on the ice and my skill set so I feel it will be a great fit. I was not able to visit campus as I was a late commit but I have heard very good things from previous players. I love Wisconsin and I’m grateful for the opportunity I’m given to continue my college career with Northland.”
Leppert spent the majority of his inaugural Premier season in 2020-21 with the San Diego Sabers, playing their first season in the league. During his time there, he was able to experience the league’s Hub City Tampa six-week event that brought all of the NCDC and many USPHL Premier and Elite teams to Wesley Chapel, Fla., and surrounding areas for hockey and an unmatched residential experience at Saddlebrook Resort, in which the USPHL created a “closed community” concept to keep the players generally insulated from the general public and able to complete their seasons amid COVID-19.
Next up, he came back to Florida to play in the inaugural season of the Palm Beach Typhoon in 2021-22, and for 2022-23, he put up his best offensive campaign in his three Premier seasons with the Riverkings. He posted 31 points in 44 games.
“The Riverkings family is amazing, all the way from the players, coaching staff, billets, sponsors, and the fans. There’s nothing like the fans in Rapids cheering you on with passion and love every night, regardless of the outcome. The Riverkings organization knows how to treat their players and the town welcomes you with open arms,” he added. “Going to the Riverkings was the best decision I made in my junior career and I am so grateful that I was able to finish out with them, along with being able to play for Coach Paul Pechmann.
“I developed drastically as a player and person, improving on and off the ice,” Leppert added. “I was given the shot and utilities I needed to get to the NCAA level. Not only was I given the opportunity to grow as a player and person but the chance to captain my team through a very memorable season. If not for Coach Paul, I would not be where I am right now. Rapids holds a special place in my heart along with the Fillmore family, who took me in with open arms and gave me a home away from home.”
As he looks back on his journey, from San Diego and Hub City to Palm Beach to Wisconsin Rapids, he’s happy he chose the USPHL Premier as his Path To College Hockey.
“Playing three seasons in the USPHL really was a great experience. The development I received as a player and the people I met over the years will stick with me for the rest of my career and life,” he added. “The league is growing into one of the best, if not the best, in the United States. Offering a ton of opportunity and exposure, the USPHL showcases tons of talent and gives players from all over the world the chance to compete and receive offers from many NCAA colleges and coaches.”
So what is next for Leppert? Regardless of where he would play the 2023-24 season, he kept working throughout the spring and summer to be the best he could be at the game he loved.
“As a player, I feel my vision, hockey sense, and smooth skating makes me the player I am. I will look to work on my speed and strength as NCAA hockey is a very fast paced game and you can never be too fast or too strong,” Leppert added.
Heading into move-in day this week, Leppert also reflected on the guy who started it all for him with hockey.
“Special thanks to my dad for going above and beyond all the time so that I was able to receive the experience/opportunity I was given. Love you Dad…”
The USPHL congratulates John Leppert, his family, the Wisconsin Rapids Riverkings and Northland College for his commitment.