is the first player to compete in this year's Sherwood/NAHL Top Prospects Tournament to commit to a Division I program.
For Rui Encarnacao
recent commitment to the University of Connecticut
marks a couple of milestones.
For one, heâ€™s the first-ever Janesville Jet to decide on a Division I school in the programâ€™s inaugural season.
And for the North American Hockey League
(NAHL), heâ€™s the first player who competed in last monthâ€™s Sherwood/NAHL Top Prospects Tournament to commit to a Division I program after the event.
Encarnacao, a 19-year-old forward who was selected by the Jets in last yearâ€™s NAHL Entry Draft, began communicating with the UConn coaching staff during a weekend series against the St. Louis Bandits in early January.
Those conversations carried over to Top Prospects, which was held from January 18-20 in Ann Arbor, Mich.
â€œUConn was really my ideal choice all along because I've wanted to go somewhere where it's a great school for an education, a big-time school with all sports and a place where I'd have the opportunity to play right away,â€ said Encarnacao. â€œAlso, it helped that UConn
is just a short drive from my hometown and that the major I'm interested in is one of the top programs at the school (Kinesiology/Athletic Training).â€
The Atlantic Hockey program and Encarnacao
reconnected nearly two weeks after Top Prospects.
That's when the White Plains, N.Y., native decided to become a Husky.
â€œThe Top Prospects Tournament definitely did nothing but benefit me in terms of college exposure,â€ said Encarnacao
, who tallied three goals and an assist at the three-game showcase. â€œI also talked to several schools at (Septemberâ€™s NAHL Showcase Tournament in Minnesota) and the next few weeks after that.
None of the schools really caught my interest as much as UConn.â€
And the Jets couldnâ€™t be happier to see their leading scorer - Encarnacao
has 24 goals for 41 points through 43 games - emerge as their first Division I-bound player.
â€œItâ€™s an exciting time not only for Rui
, but for the entire Jets organization,â€ said Jets head coach Dane Litke. â€œHeâ€™s worked hard this year and is very deserving of this accomplishment; itâ€™s a great opportunity for him.â€
is nothing but thankful for his
opportunity with the Jets, and has no complaints about venturing to the Midwest this season to pursue a dream that will take him back east.
â€œMy experience in Janesville has been great,â€ he
said. â€œIâ€™m definitely happy I chose to come here instead of anywhere else, because it got me to where I've been striving to go just about all my life, which is Division I hockey.
â€œA lot of the thanks goes to the coaches and my teammates because I couldn't have done it without their help,â€ he continued. â€œJanesville has done a ton towards my development of becoming a complete hockey player, which has given me the chance to get ready for the next level.â€