Ethan Wolthers’ hockey is on a steep upward trajectory.
The former West Ranch hockey player made the cut for a USHL team earlier this month, then became the first NCAA Division 1 hockey commit out of West Ranch on Saturday when he committed to University of Massachusetts, Amherst.
“It was really exciting,” Wolthers said of his commitment. “This is what I want, to make sure my parents don’t have to pay for college … They’re extremely happy, I’m happy and it’s just, it’s really exciting. It’s really awesome.”
Wolthers, who plays right wing, took his official visit to UMass Amherst’s campus on Aug. 16-17 and knew almost immediately that he would choose the school.
He loved the feel of the campus and the hockey program’s recent success. The Minutemen, who compete in the Hockey East Association, reached the conference quarterfinals last season, where they fell to Northeastern.
UMass Amherst also has a plethora of pro hockey alumni, including several NHL players in the state of California. Jonathan Quick of the Los Angeles Kings, Justin Braun of the San Jose Sharks and Brandon Montour of the Anaheim Ducks each came from the Minuteman program.
Wolthers’ ultimate goal is to play in the NHL, and he’s ready to enjoy the journey there. In addition to his college commitment, Wolthers recently made the cut for the Cedar Rapids Rough Riders, a USHL junior hockey team.
He’ll be moving to Cedar Rapids, Iowa where he’ll be homeschooled after spending two seasons with the Anaheim Ducks AAA team and three years with the West Ranch program.
“West Ranch, it was really good,” Wolthers said. “I was playing with all my friends at school, kind of have that traditional high school feel plus playing hockey with everyone at the games. It was a new sport and everyone wanted to see what it was about.”
In total, the Wildcats have sent nine players to the junior or college level in three years. In addition to Ethan in the USHL, Tristan Warr, Tate Martishius, Michael Onda and Jack McNamara play in the WSHL. Tyler Shea is in the NAHL, Jackson Vercellono is in the USPHL and Chris Maghakian is in the GMHL, while Bailey Prouty plays for the University of Oklahoma.
“I’ve had the pleasure of watching these kids develop into young men,” said Jason McNamara, president of West Ranch hockey. “They are all outstanding hockey players, every one of them.
“I have to admit I dream about having all these guys still on our Varsity roster this season. It’s bittersweet to see them leave our West Ranch program but we are executing our WRHC vision and mission of developing student athletes of character and preparing them to be successful at the next level – in life or hockey.”
Wolthers concurs and feels well-prepared for both life and hockey as he takes the next steps in his playing career.
“(West Ranch) kind of pushed me up to higher youth hockey, which was Anaheim Junior Ducks,” he said. “I played for them and then had a good season there and made this team now, so ultimately what got me here was the help of West Ranch hockey.”