By Joshua Boyd / USPHLNCDC.com
There’s an easy answer to “how much better can it get than winning a Dineen Cup Championship?” That answer is, making your NCAA Division I commitment not very long afterwards.
P.A.L. Jr. Islanders two-year NCDC defenseman Zach Hahn announced his commitment to the University of New Hampshire on May 31. The defender spent exactly 100 combined regular season and playoff games with the Jr. Islanders NCDC team.
It’s pretty obvious that No. 100 was his favorite of these games, that coming on April 2 when the Jr. Islanders won that first-ever Dineen Cup title on their home ice in East Meadow, N.Y.
“Winning the Dineen Cup this season was just unreal. We had such a deep team and everyone bought into the system. Our team culture was the best I’ve ever been a part of and it made it fun to come to the rink every day,” said Hahn. “Coach Mike Marcou and Coach Frank DiChiara [both former P.A.L. players] did a tremendous job getting everyone to buy in and to keep our focus. It definitely was one of the most fun years of my hockey career so far.”
There could be four more additions to that category, as he is excited to become a Wildcat just around the corner, time-wise.
“We started talking a few weeks ago after they’d been speaking with my coaches and my advisor for a while during the season,” said Hahn, a native of Huntington, N.Y., and the son of MSG Networks and ESPN Radio broadcaster Alan Hahn. “The biggest thing they liked about my game is my defensive side of the game and how hard and simple of a game I play.”
Zach Hahn led the P.A.L. squad this year in blocked shots, posting 113 over the course of the season, standing as the only Jr. Islander to cross the century mark in that sometimes painful statistic. He also posted 20 points in 49 regular season games, and added three assists over the Jr. Isles’ seven playoff games.
The Wildcats are excited to bring that commitment to an overall lower team goals against into their Durham, N.H., locker room.
“UNH being a Hockey East school and having my major [sports management] was a big deal for me. I also just felt that I would fit in there the best,” said Hahn. “I haven’t been able to visit the campus yet, but just the great reputation the UNH program has and how awesome the coaches are really sold me to want to be a part of it.”
The Wildcats will celebrate their centennial season in 2023-24, and Hahn will be part of a movement trying to bring the Wildcats back to their glory days. Between 1991 and 2013, they made the NCAA tournament 18 times. UNH has reached the Frozen Four seven times since their first appearance in that event in 1977.
It’ll help to bring to the Wildcats a championship pedigree, with the Jr. Islanders’ glory days being basically right now. Hahn’s pride in that fact is unbounded as he’s flown the P.A.L. flag going back to his elementary school days.
“I grew up playing in the P.A.L. organization so it’s really special to me. I started there in Mites and to finish at the highest level of the organization was really cool. I have nothing but positive things to say when talking about P.A.L. and I think it’s one of the best run organizations out there,” added Hahn. “The player development model is awesome. Coach Marcou really helped develop me into a better player whether it was one-on-one video sessions or on-ice instruction.”
Hahn’s two years with the Jr. Islanders’ NCDC squad do not represent his only time in the USPHL. He had also played in the USPHL 16U Division for the Jr. Islanders in 2018-19. After graduating from the Taft School in Connecticut, he could think of no better place to close out his junior-eligible years than the P.A.L.
“After going away to the Taft School for two years in between my 16U year and playing NCDC, I felt that playing locally at a high level was best for me,” Hahn said. That higher level, the NCDC, is getting better every season and Hahn could see that in the Jr. Islanders’ tough road to the championship. Two OT wins were necessary to get past the first-year Mercer Chiefs in the South Division Final, and the Jr. Isles then found themselves down by one goal late in Game 2 of the three-game championship series.
“It definitely is a league that deserves more Division 1 recognition,” added Hahn. “There are a lot of talented players in this league and you can see it become more and more noticed by Division 1 schools.”
He’ll be spending time back home this spring and summer working on his game and overall fitness level to be ready for the high-flying Division I hockey world.
“The offensive side of my game has been an area I’ve been working on – just being able to handle pucks better and make plays at a faster speed,” added Hahn.
The NCDC congratulates Zach Hahn, his family, the P.A.L. Jr. Islanders and the University of New Hampshire for his commitment.