By Tim Lima
---- — BRISTOL, R.I. – Pentucket High School alumnus Ian Mitchell is not far removed from high school, though has already left a lasting mark on Roger Williams University athletics.
Upon graduating from Pentucket last June, Mitchell had a big decision to make: commit to a junior hockey team and postpone his education, or take his 3.9 high school GPA to college immediately and look to be involved in collegiate athletics.
Mitchell chose the latter.
“It was a tough decision and I was split,” he said. “I signed up for a junior hockey team and I had to decide one or the other, but I chose to go to college. It’s hard to play on a varsity team but it was a lot of fun playing good hockey here.”
Mitchell would land at Roger Williams University and would play on its club hockey team. While the level of competition among club athletics in colleges are varied, Roger Williams takes its hockey team very seriously.
“The difference between varsity and club sports is largely funding,” said head coach Ed Silva. “A lot of institutions would rather have club teams because it wouldn’t cost them as much. We run our team as a Division III program.”
Mitchell, accustomed to high school level hockey, had a lot of adjusting to do upon getting to Bristol.
“Everyone was really big,” he said. “There were a lot of really big people who were real quick. Everything went up a level from high school. I was one of the biggest kids in high school, but now I am playing against much older, manlier guys.”
Roger Williams finished its season with a 10-8-3 record. Mitchell finished second on his team in points with 12 goals and 13 assists. Finishing three points ahead of him was only junior Jared Rizo.
“He did well,” Silva said. “He had an immediate impact and was a top-six forward right away. He played on the top line right away for most of the year and was put on the second line after break to make the line stronger.”
Allowing him to have a strong impact as the season progressed was his ability to trust his line mates. While he was a star in high school hockey, it took Mitchell time to transition to an environment where he simply had to do his job, and nothing further.
“It’s not a knock on him,” Silva said. “It’s rather the nature of the beast of high school hockey in Massachusetts. It’s so watered down. Ian probably was the guy who was the main player so he was all over the ice. It took him a while to realize he didn’t have to do everything himself and to trust his line mates. Once he did that, he slowed down and played within himself.”
While Silva is glad Mitchell chose to attend college rather than play on a junior team, he oftentimes wonders what Ian could have become if he had taken the other route.
“We think Ian would have been a high Division III prospect or a low Division I prospect if he had played junior hockey,” Silva said. “His skating and vision are very strong. He just has to put on some muscle. He’s still just 18-years-old.”
Because of the level of intensity that comes with a collegiate hockey program, Silva prefers to have his athletes dedicate their time in sports solely to hockey.
“Hockey has to be your first sport choice, so if you want to play lacrosse or another sport, we likely wouldn’t keep you on the team because its a season-long commitment,” he said. “We don’t end until late February or early March. It would interfere with other sports.”
It was likely this train of thought that kept Mitchell from informing his coach of his plans to run varsity outdoor track until the last week of the season. While it would be difficult for most, Mitchell has already proven to be an exception.
“I didn’t find out he did track until the last week of the season,” Silva said. “We welcome kids to make hockey their first priority but we won’t tell them they can’t do anything else. He’s a good student which is good so it won’t be an issue for him.”
The time also worked out well, with one sport ending almost as soon as the next began.
“The good thing about the two sports is they’re at opposite ends of the season,” Mitchell said. “Track starts right after hockey ends. I missed a few track practices in the beginning, but I told my coaches and it wasn’t a big deal.”
The ability to manage his time was something that Mitchell learned from Pentucket. It’s something that has helped him transition to college work while also allowing him to change sports so quickly.
“I was fortunate to have really good teachers at Pentucket,” Mitchell said.
“They really prepared me for the workload and to manage everything that I had to do. Time management was a big thing at Pentucket.”
In track, Mitchell does the high jump, triple jump and the 400-Meter Dash. Mitchell will compete in his first track meet on March 22 at Bridgewater State University.