It has all come together perfectly this year for Rockets Hockey Club forward Caden Cranston. He developed seamlessly from a USPHL Premier All-Star last year to an NCDC All-Star this year – and the league’s leading scorer as well. He gets to play with one of his best friends in the Rockets’ newly acquired Parker Bonsignore. And now he’s committed to an NCAA Division I college hockey team, after giving his commitment to Bentley University for the 2025-26 season.
This season, Cranston has posted 16 goals and 46 assists for 62 points in 43 games, which gives him at this moment a five-point lead on his nearest competitor for the league scoring title.
“[Bentley’s coaching staff] said they liked my playmaking, my high-end skill and my vision,” said Cranston. “Bentley has great academics, the coaches have been great to me, and I loved the school when I toured it.”
Bentley University plays in the Atlantic Hockey Association, and the Falcons have a hockey history going back to 1977. The program turned Division I in 1999, so they will be celebrating their 25th season at that level in 2023-24, which will coincide with Head Coach Ryan Soderquist’s 22nd season behind the bench. The university itself, based in Waltham, Mass., has been recognized as one of the top colleges for business majors, another big draw for Cranston who currently expects to carry a business major with a sports management minor when he arrives in two autumns.
The Rocket center said his conversations with Bentley began in January and culminated with a visit this past Monday, one day before his appearance in the NCDC “Best of the Best” All-Star Game.
“Coach [Stephen] Needham talked to me after one of our games, and then reached out to me again a fefw weeks ago and invited me to visit the day before the All-Star Game,” said Cranston. “They told me there, during my visit, that they would offer me after the All-Star Game.”
Cranston registered an assist on one of Rockets teammate Barron Woodring’s two goals. The two will be seeing each other in their Atlantic Hockey futures, as Woodring is bound next year for the Army Black Knighs, also an AHA member institution. Cranston had plenty to say about the Rockets’ organizational strengths that have led him to become an NCAA Division I player today.
“It’s been great, it’s a top-tier organization. Coach Jared Kersner and Coach Rem Vanderbeek have been great all year, and the boys have been great,” said Cranston. “Their development is like no other, with the focus on physical and mental development. It’s just a top-tier organization. The parts of my game that have improved the most with the Rockets would be the mental side of the game. They really put an emphasis on living in the moment, playing one shift at a time, and not worrying about things you can’t control.”
Cranston became a well-known entity in the greater USPHL when he was a USPHL Premier Atlantic West Division All-star last year with the Buffalo Stampede. His coach there, former NHLer Jason Bonsignore, reached out to the Rockets on his behalf and helped him make the connection with former head coach Jason Kersner, now the head coach of the USHL’s Sioux City Musketeers, and brother to Jared Kersner.
Jason Bonsignore is also the father of Caden’s close friend, Parker Bonsignore, whom the Rockets drafted last spring and recently signed for the remainder of the season. He scored his first NCDC point, an assist, on Feb. 17 in his third of four games so far.
“It was a great year with Buffalo. The team didn’t do so well, but for a first-year team, I thought it was pretty good,” said Cranston, of his time with the Stampede that led to his #USPHLAdvancement to the NCDC. “I definitely learned a lot of things. Coach Bonsignore was my coach for seven or eight years, and Parker was on the Stampede and he’s one of my best friends. We’ve been playing together for a while and the Rockets decided to draft Parker last year. He’s joining our team for the rest of the season.”
Cranston hopes that Bonsignore, Woodring and all of his teammates can help the Rockets not only clinch a playoff spot in their final few games here but also to go far in the postseason. The Rockets also have found a future Path To College Hockey for Caden’s brother Jace, a recent tender for the 2023-24 Rockets.
“We’ve been really starting to find our identity, and play to the best of our abilities,” he said. “I think we’ll definitely be in a playoff spot by the end of it. We should be. I’m excited to see what the future holds for our team.”
Knowing that his arrival at Bentley is two years away, Cranston is hoping to continue to climb the junior hockey ladder.
“I am looking to make a USHL team for next year,” he added. “It would be pretty cool to get drafted by Sioux City, as Jason was originally going to be my coach, then he got the Musketeers job and I’ve been able to work with Jared.”
Nobody should be surprised if that works out for him – as so much else has this year.
The USPHL congratulates Caden Cranston, his family, the Rockets Hockey Club and Bentley University for his commitment.