South Deerfield’s Kaz Sobieski will be staying close to home for his college hockey career.
The 17-year-old defenseman — who has been attending the prestigious Shattuck-St. Mary’s School in Faribault, Minn., the last three years — announced his commitment on Friday to play at the next level for the University of Massachusetts.
“I’m super pumped about it,” Sobieski said. “Growing up and going to games (at the Mullins Center), I’ve always thought I wanted to play for UMass. It’s exciting. They’re coming off a national championship and the coaching staff is great.”
The recruiting process really ramped up for Sobieski a few weeks ago while attending USA Hockey National Camp in Amherst, N.Y.
Ten schools reached out to Sobieski to take visits, and his decision ultimately came down to UMass and fellow Hockey East foe Northeastern.
“My recruiting took off at national camp,” Sobieski said. “After visiting UMass, I knew that’s where I wanted to be. It came down to them and Northeastern, I visited them back-to-back. Choosing UMass was really a no-brainer for me.”
Growing up in South Deerfield, the Minutemen were always going to be an option for Sobieski. The hockey program has gone through drastic changes since Sobieski was younger and attending games, and with the Minutemen coming off a national title this past season, the decision became even easier.
“That was a big factor to it,” Sobieski said of the title. “It’s attracting a lot of guys.”
UMass associate head coach Jared DeMichiel led the charge in the recruiting process for Sobieski. On his visit to Amherst, he said he also spent about two hours with head coach Greg Carvel, which only affirmed his desire to play for the Minutemen.
“He’s such a great guy,” Sobieski said of Carvel. “He’s so real to me. He’s soft spoken but it was a very good meeting.”
The 6-feet-tall right stick defenseman is coming off a season in which he played nearly 50 games at Shattuck-St. Mary’s, a school that has produced star NHL players such as Sidney Crosby, Nathan McKinnon and Jonathan Toews.
Getting to play a full slate in a year where not everyone was able to during a pandemic was something Sobieski made sure to take advantage of. He finished the season with nine goals and 19 assists in 47 games on the ice.
“This season went well,” Sobieski said. “It was definitely different with COVID and being locked down for so long but we got in a good amount of games. We were lucky to have been able to play so many games with so many places not playing at all. I felt lucky to be able to get in the rink. The facilities at our school are amazing. They’re always available to us and it’s helped me develop so much.”
Sobieski was drafted into the United States Hockey League (USHL) last summer, selected by the Sioux Falls Stampede in the fifth round. He was the 67th pick overall of the Phase I Draft, held for “Futures” age players only, which are U-17 players for next year’s season (2004 birth year players only).
When Sobieski will arrive on campus at UMass remains unknown, as timelines for Division 1 programs vary significantly in the sport of hockey. He’ll continue working to be prepared for when that time comes, however.
“They expect me to come in when I’m ready,” said Sobieski, who attended Eaglebrook School prior to Shattuck-St. Mary’s. “They want me to be a big contributor to the team.”