Cushing Stars Reveal College Plans

December 22, 2017 GMT

Cushing Academy has seen its fair share of Division 1 commitments over the past couple years.

Basketball stars Wabissa Bede and David Duke drew headlines across the college hoops world by committing to Virginia Tech and Providence, respectively, in the last two years. And the attention the duo has drawn is undoubtedly deserved.

But the Penguins are producing more than just quality athletes on the hardwood. Look no further than on the ice of the Iorio Arena, where in just the last week a pair of Cushing hockey players have pledged to take their talents to major Division 1 programs.

Defenseman Nolan McElhaney -- listed at 6-foot-3 and 190 pounds -- committed to the University of New Hampshire on Wednesday, just three days after 6-foot-3, 200-pound forward Vilho Saariluoma announced his intentions to play at Union College in Schenectady, N.Y.

They follow in the footsteps of 6-foot-3, 240-pound defenseman Patrick Keegan of Billerica, who committed to the University of Wisconsin in July of 2016. All three are set to start with their respective collegiate programs for the 2019-20 seasons.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the Penguins are drawing attention. A perennial prep power on the ice, Cushing is off to an 8-1-1 start this season under head coach Steve Jacobs, who’s in the first year of his second stint with the program.

Jacobs -- who coached the team from 1985-2007 and compiled a 787-279-39 record -- knows talent. He’s coached the likes of NHL All-Star Keith Yandle and two-time Stanley Cup champion Conor Sheary in Ashburnham.

The Penguins have a handful of games at Iorio Arena next week, including a pair on Thursday, hosting Northfield Mt. Hermon (11:10 a.m.) and Lawrence Academy (7:50 p.m.). The team also hosts Governor’s Academy on Friday afternoon.

Another area hockey star who went on to find success at the upper levels has shown he has other talents after retiring from the NHL.

Nashoba Regional alum and 16-year NHL veteran Hal Gill hasn’t gone back to his football roots post-retirement, but has shown he’s pretty gifted at adding some flavor to a hockey broadcast. Gill -- a Stanley Cup champion with Pittsburgh in 2009 -- is now the color commentator on radio broadcasts of Nashville Predators games.

And from the samples I’ve heard, Gill -- who played for the Predators from 2011 to 2013 -- is a natural in the booth. He’s easygoing and provides plenty of insight into the game.

Just another thing the former Chieftain excels at.

Follow Nick Mallard on Twitter @n_mallard.