After spending a couple years as a Saint, Nolan Kent is going to be a Wildcat the next time he pulls on the goalie gear.
The Chestermere native has capped an amazing season with the Spruce Grove Saints by earning a scholarship to Northern Michigan, where he’s going to play for the Wildcats while pursuing a business degree.
He’s back in Chestermere for the summer to get prepared for school, and things couldn’t have gone better for him. The Saints won the AJHL championship this spring, and Kent has now earned the scholarship he desired, which eases the burden on his family.
The 19-year-old has a couple of months to enjoy the summer before he turns 20 and heads off to real life, but him and his family couldn’t be happier right now.
“They know this was my goal heading into this season,” said Kent. “I was trying to get a scholarship for next year or the year after. It’s a pretty big deal and they are excited that I get to go to the States.
“It will be a good experience living in a different country. They are very excited.”
Northern Michigan is in Marquette, which is the largest city in the Upper Peninsula of the state, but it’s still a small college town.
Kent got a great vibe when he went on a visit, so the situation couldn’t be better for him going forward too.
“They have some nice facilities and the rink is really big,” Kent said. “The gym and dressing room are really nice, and they are redoing a lot of stuff over the next couple of years so that should be good. There are a lot of developments around the school over the past few years. They are continuing to do that.
“It was really impressive. The coaches were great. They seemed knowledgeable and they had a plan for me.”
The Wildcats compete in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA), and have eight NCAA tournament appearances and one national championship (1991) to the their credit.
Kent is coming into a good team as well, as they went to the WCHA championship game this season and have most of the core of that team returning.
“They almost went to the NCAA tournament,” Kent said. “It was a big loss for them. They had a good team last year. There was a new coach last year so there was a lot of adjustment for them this year. There are a lot of good seniors coming back next year. They will be looking to be pretty good this season.”
Kent’s scholarship is based on how well he does. He will have 75 per cent of his tuition covered when he’s the backup, but it will jump to a full ride if he becomes the starter.
The expected starting goalie for the Wildcats this season is heading into his senior season, which makes the opportunity even more attractive for Kent.
“He’s supposed to be pretty good so I’m excited to learn off him,” Kent said. “The goal is to hopefully start in my second year.
“It will be between me and another guy — another freshman — to be the backup this season. We will see who can take the starter’s role after that. Should be pretty exciting.”
Kent will spend the next few months training and working with Push It Hockey in Chestermere while he gets prepared to be a student again. While in junior, the focus was strictly on hockey so it will be an adjustment to be in university. He’s ready and excited for the change though, and he’s expecting to head down there in mid-August to get situated.
“I haven’t been in school for a few years now,” Kent said. “I have to get ready for that. It’s been a two-year layoff so it will be a change going back to school.
“I’m excited to get down there.”