KINGSTON, R.I. – November 5, 2008 – One player got the call from University of Rhode Island men’s hockey coach Joe Augustine on his way to Sunday breakfast.
Another player was lounging on Narragansett Beach when he got the news and the third was in his car driving home when he learned that his hockey fortunes would change dramatically in the coming year.
But Augustine wasn’t just calling as skipper of the Rams. He called in his capacity as head coach of the 2009 United States University Select Team, which will travel in February to Harbin, China for the Winter World University Games, which run from Feb. 18 through 28.
Jon Biliouris, a senior defenseman from North Smithfield, Devin Sheehan, a junior forward from Binghamton, N.Y. and sophomore forward Kyle Krannich of Randolph, N.J. were all told by Augustine to make sure they have passports so they can make the trip.
“My family was walking into the restaurant after church when I got the news from Coach Augustine,” Sheehan said. “My parents and sister talked about what a great opportunity this would be. How many times do you get to go to China and play against great competition?”
“I made the team two years ago, but I found the training camp to be much faster paced this time around,” said Biliouris, who played for the U.S. in Turin, Italy during the 2007 games. “Because this is my senior year, I wanted to go again. When I went to the games in Italy, they treated us like pros, and I understand the facilities in China are excellent.”
As the youngest of the URI three, Krannich said he was just trying to have a good showing so he would have a good shot to make the next team. “Being part of the team is exciting because you are going to represent your country and you’re wearing your country’s jersey. Luckily, I have two very good friends from my URI team making the trip.”
Fans who would like to see the three in action before they head to China, as well as the rest of the nationally ranked men’s ice hockey team, should go to http://www.uri.edu/athletics/recservices/clubsports/mihschedule.shtml.
Click on team info to get the schedule. Tickets at the Boss Arena are $2 for URI students with identification and children under 12, and $5 for adults.
The U.S. University Select Team is comprised of players from collegiate ice hockey teams affiliated with the American Collegiate Hockey Association, the umbrella organization for collegiate club hockey in the United States. URI plays at the Division I club level and won the national championship in 2006.
Biliouris, who attended Mount St. Charles Academy in Woonsocket for three years and who played junior hockey for the Connecticut Junior Whalers and the Bay State Breakers, is an accounting major. He graduated from East Catholic High School in Manchester, Conn.
Sheehan and Krannich will be part of the U.S. for the first time. A graduate of perennial upstate New York hockey champion, Chenango Forks High School who also played 12 years of travel hockey, Sheehan is an entrepreneurship management major. Krannich is a graduate of Randolph High School, where the boys’ hockey team won New Jersey’s public schools state hockey championships his junior and senior years. Krannich is a business management major.
Initially, 160 players were invited to try out for the U.S. team, and 80 were then chosen to participate in a three-day camp in Detroit in August. A panel of coaches and scouts evaluated the players during five separate ice sessions, three of them in actual game conditions.
While the three were in high school, they hoped to play Division I varsity hockey, but URI has met all of their expectations because Augustine runs his team like a varsity program.
“I had a year of playing junior hockey, and I applied to several D-I schools,” Biliouris said. “But as I faced reality and thought about it, URI just made sense both academically and athletically. We have a beautiful campus, and I have had a lot of fun playing hockey here.”
Sheehan agreed that URI was a great choice for him. “I started at Division III Elmira, but I was competing against all these guys from Canada. Even before I started looking at schools, I knew URI took its hockey seriously so transferring was an easy decision,” he said.
“Without a doubt, at URI, we are treated better than many Division II and Division III varsity programs and our level of hockey is excellent,” Krannich said. “The Boss Arena is much better than rinks at so many of our competitors. Add that to our beautiful campus, the nearby beaches and proximity to Providence, it’s tough to beat URI.”
The players credit Augustine with giving all URI players the opportunity to excel. “We were national champs my freshman year, and now anything less than that seems unacceptable,” Biliouris said.
Krannich said Augustine knows how to get to players and get the most out of them. “He can be an intimidating guy, but he gets what he wants. He gave us a shot to be part of a great program at URI, and I like that he treats everyone the same. If you work hard, you will get a shot.”
Sheehan said Augustine creates an environment that keeps players serious. “We hear about other teams’ lack of discipline off ice, and here that is unacceptable.”
Biliouris agreed adding, “Our whole team has responsibilities, taking care of school first, hockey second and then having fun.”
Now that the tension of tryouts has dissipated and the URI season is well under way, Biliouris, Sheehan and Krannich have to worry about raising money for travel to and from the tourney. Total costs for each player will be more than $2,800.
Biliouris said he and his mates will be running a few fund-raisers during the next several months. Those individuals or firms wishing to help the three student-athletes achieve their dream may contact Jon Biliouris at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 401-744-2562.
READY FOR THE WORLD: The University of Rhode Island/s men’s hockey will send four representatives to Harbin, China for the Winter World University Games, which run from Feb. 18 through 28. From left are Devin Sheehan, Jon Biliouris, Coach Joe Augustine, and Kyle Krannich. URI Department of Communications and Marketing Photo by Joe Giblin.