OLDS — Defenceman Josh Zinger is the latest Olds Grizzly to commit to playing for an NCAA Division I university.
The team announced last week that Zinger, 20, had agreed to play for the Northern Michigan University Wildcats.
The Wildcats, located in Marquette, Mich. play in the highly competitive Central Collegiate Hockey Association.
Over the past summer, Zinger chose to move from forward to defence.
That decision has really paid off for him.
In 59 career games as a forward Zinger amassed 23 points.
On D, he has equalled that point total in just 25 games and was named the Alberta Junior Hockey League Defensive Player of the Week in week 3 of the season.
“I’m very excited for Josh. He took a risk by switching positions this year and it’s paid off, but I’m not surprised,” Grizzlys head coach Scott Atkinson said on the team’s website.
“He’s a very dedicated athlete who is extremely coachable and his athleticism is off the charts. His tremendous speed and agility make him a very dynamic offensive defenceman.
“I think he is just scratching the surface of what his capabilities can be. Josh is also a tremendous teammate who is a co-captain on our team. He’s earned this opportunity, I’m very happy for him.”
On the website, Zinger thanked the Grizzly organization for all their help, which resulted in the Marquette scholarship.
He also thanked his teammates, saying they’ve been “very supportive and have pushed me to get better every day in practice.
“I’ve had a great experience in Olds, both on and off the ice. It’s been great. I would also like to thank my family and friends for supporting me throughout my career."
Zinger is not the only Grizzly to have obtained a chance to play for a Division I team.
Captain Noah Hackett, 20, will be playing for the Niagara University Purple Eagles in Lewiston, New York during the 2022-2023 season.
The third-year Grizzlys forward scored 21 goals and picked up 17 assists for 38 points in 24 games this season, compared to 21 goals and 46 points in 69 career games.
He’s been named AJHL Player of the Week twice.
“I’m really proud of Noah’s accomplishments over the time I have known him,” Atkinson said on the Grizzlys website.
“Noah has always had great offensive instincts, and this year has certainly been a step forward in that department, but what I’m most pleased about is his growth in other areas.
“He’s developed into a player who plays in all situations, and perhaps most significantly he wears the ‘C’ for us and has become an exceptional leader. He has worked very hard to get better, it’s nice to see him get rewarded."
Like Zinger, Hackett said he’s enjoyed his time as a Grizzly.
“The whole organization has been nothing but professional and I would like to thank the coaching staff for all the opportunities they have provided me," he said on the website.
“I would also like to thank my teammates for pushing me to get better every day and my billet family, the Tookeys, for making Olds a second home for me."
Earlier this season, the Grizzlys made a trade, moving True Crowe to the Drumheller Dragons in exchange for 19-year-old forward Kasey Hiemstra.
Hiemstra, a two-year veteran from Big Valley has amassed 31 points in two AJHL seasons.
When traded, Crowe, a defenceman from Greeley, Colo., had scored two goals and picked up eight assists for 10 points.