By Joshua Boyd / NCDCHockey.com
The Rockets Hockey Club’s big defenseman Shane McElhaney got his first taste of NCDC hockey in 2021-22 and just keeps coming back for more.
The 6-foot-4-inch, 187-pound blueliner from Swansea, Mass., will play his third partial or full season here in 2023-24 as one of the Rockets’ few returning veterans.
“I was fortunate to play a few games for the Rockets in the 2021-22 season while they were still being coached by Jason Kersner. Our coach now, Jared Kersner, was a huge push for me to sign for the next season,” said McElhaney, who put up 10 points in 40 games last year from the blue line. “I knew they were both very smart coaches, and I knew it was best for me. I knew the way they developed players both on and off the ice is incredible and wanted to continue to be in their system.”
After originally playing for the South Shore Kings’ USPHL Premier team, putting up a very strong 35 points in 35 games in 2020-21, McElhaney next played in York, Pa., for the Skipjacks Hockey Academy under then-Coach Jared Kersner, earning the six-game call-up from Jared’s brother Jason (currently the head coach for the USHL’s Sioux City Musketeers). McElhaney was also part of the Skipjacks’ USPHL 18U Championship team that year.
So it should come as no surprise when the 2022 off-season pulled around that McElhaney would choose to stick with Coach Jared Kersner as they both moved to full-time duty in the NCDC. McElhaney felt he benefited greatly from the program that Jared and assistant coach Rem Vanderbeek have put together for Tier II player development.
“I really like how Coach Kernser and Coach Vanderbeek cared about getting players better each day. They were always free to work with individual players after practice or just pull guys aside to explain different parts of the game. They also believed in my play and allowed me to play my style while still fitting within their systems,” said McElhaney. “I and a lot of others guys also like the mental aspect of the game that our coaching staff focuses on. Everyday, we work with our mental performance coach, Brian Cain. We are extremely lucky to work with him through his mental performance manual, daily podcasts, and his weekly zoom calls. This has helped me grow my game even further than I ever thought it could.”
The Rockets had a reasonably successful season, finishing third in the Atlantic Division in 2022-23. The playoffs pit them against eventual champions the P.A.L. Jr. Islanders, but the Rockets have regularly positioned themselves as Dineen Cup contenders going back to their championship game appearance in the “frozen four” format of the 2021 playoffs.
“I was very happy with how the season went last year. It obviously did not end the way I would have hoped, but I also wouldn’t call the year a failure,” he said. “As the season went on, I felt like everyone on the team came together more and more, and got better every single day. We really grew together as a team and I am hoping for the same this year, hopefully with a better ending.”
McElhaney was one of the Rockets’ top defensive defensemen last year, and he hopes to continue to be a rock on the blue line, but he also hopes to pick up his points total and pull it closer to another returning defenseman Jonah Copre. Forward Cam Bergeman is another returning Rocket, added Jared Kersner in his communications regarding this article.
“I’m always looking to get faster and stronger every year. Last year, I was successful on the defensive side of the game, so this year I would like to grow the offensive side some more,” he added. “I also want to grow my mental strength further. But ultimately, I want to grow my game enough to help my team win a Dineen Cup.
“The Rockets organization is amazing when it comes to how it treats its players,” he said. “I had a great experience this last season. Everyone from the coaches to the billet coordinators and families really put the players first. We were supported very well and made sure everyone was comfortable in the situations they were in.”
He’s also excited about returning to the NCDC as it continues to grow in skill and size, adding the six-team Mountain Division and increasing the recruiting pressure on each team to up its scouting game.
“I think the NCDC is getting better each year. As the game expands, the better the competition gets,” he said. “With the league expanding into the west, I am excited to see how that grows the name of the league into different parts of the country.”
As an ‘03-born player, McElhaney knows this is the year when he’ll have to make his decision on where to move on for college hockey, and he is looking forward to talking to different schools through the year.
“Whichever college I go to will be getting a very competitive person. I am not one to cheat the game, so every rep, on or off the ice, will be a full effort,” said McElhaney. “Last year, I took pride in killing penalties, blocking shots, and shutting down top lines every game. I like to make simple and hard plays out of my zone and get creative in the offensive zone. On or off the ice, I will work to be better than I was the day before.”
The NCDC wishes Shane McElhaney and the Rockets Hockey Club the very best of luck in 2023-24.