By Joshua Boyd / USPHLNCDC.com
So much has come together the right way for the South Shore Kings’ Jack Hillier. He has been a key cog in the engine that has driven the Kings to this coming weekend’s Dineen Cup Finals series. And to top it off, he knows exactly where he’ll continue his career – in the NCAA Division I ranks at Sacred Heart University.
It’s a lot to take in all at once, and as exciting as the commitment is, Hillier remains laser-focused on the Dineen Cup Final task at hand.
“It hasn’t really hit me yet,” he said in a phone interview on Wednesday, less than a day after the Kings announced the commitment. Hillier is expecting to join Sacred Heart for 2024-25.. “I’m just focusing on the series against the P.A.L. Jr. Islanders, and hopefully we can get the win for the Cup.”
The Sacred Heart Pioneers belong to the Atlantic Hockey Association, and have been an NCAA Division I team since the 1993-94 season. C.J. Marottolo has been Head Coach of the program since 2009, and is bringing aboard the second former King on their roster, as Hillier will be joining Chikara Hanzawa (2020-22) on the Pioneers roster.
“Sacred Heart came to one of my games two or three weeks ago, and we talked from there. I took a visit, talked to my family, they offered and I made my commitment,” said Hillier, an ‘04 from Petawawa, Ont., “It’s awesome, they have a new rink there, and the coaches are terrific – C.J. and [Senior Associate Head Coach] Scott McDougall. I think the hockey program, with the new arena, is bringing in a lot of good players, and I think there’ll be a lot of success.”
He of course had a lot of good things to say about Sacred Heart, and he said they returned in kind.
“They like my speed and stickhandling and my shot, my offensive traits,” he added.
Hockey will be able to play a big part in Hillier’s years at Sacred Heart, but of course the priority is getting a great education at the Fairfield, Conn., campus.
“I really like the educational offerings they have, and I really like their business school, which is what I am interested in,” he said.
Hillier ended the 2022-23 regular season as their leading scorer with 24 goals and 25 assists for 49 points in 50 games. Hillier made the jump from the Central Canada Hockey League after being named to the CCHL All-Rookie team in 2021-22. He was an NCDC All-Star this year, playing in the Best of the Best game.
“The Kings are awesome, they helped me all year. I’m getting better personally in my development. Also, Head Coach Tyler Holske helped me a lot with Sacred Heart, so I thank the Kings a lot for this year,” said Hillier.
He looks back on a season of progression in his game, and especially in his physical fitness with the Kings’ access to Edge Performance Systems and trainer Brian McDonough.
“It’s obviously a long season, and we practice a lot and I got into the gym at EPS a lot,” said Hillier. “It’s been a great season. I improved my 200-foot game a lot, improved my game in all three zones defensively, and I improved my physical play. Finishing second in the North and going to the Dineen Cup Final is pretty cool.”
It’s certainly not going to be easy, as the P.A.L. – similarly to the Kings – take to the ice with a multi-faceted offensive attack, strong defense and brick wall goaltending from St. Lawrence commit Cameron Smith.
“We just have to keep it simple and play our game,” said Hillier. “We did it all playoffs against the Monarchs and the Thunder. We’ve watched some video on P.A.L., and we have a good chance.”