Eau Claire (WQOW) -- Eau Claire native Michael Kapla was planning to play a second season for the Sioux City Musketeers of the USHL, but with a couple of roster spots open at UMass-Lowell, Kapla will join the RiverHawks program.
"They ended up needing a couple guys," Kapla says, "one guy signed an NHL contract and another guy just left school, and they had a spot they needed to fill at D, and Coach Bazin [UML head coach Norm Bazin] asked if I'd be willing to do that."
Shortly after UML won an NCAA Regional title, Bazin said Kapla would be a good fit for the RiverHawks' defensive style.
"Michael is somebody who moves the puck extremely well," said Bazin, "he's got good size, he's a very heady defenseman, and really, we're very excited about having him as part of our organization here in the future."
Kapla will be one of four Eau Claire natives skating for Division I men's college hockey programs next season: Jake McCabe & Jefferson Dahl play at Wisconsin, with Dahl's younger brother Alexander, on his way to St. Lawrence.
"It's cool, because Eau Claire's not a huge city or anything like that," Kapla says, "and it's just in Wisconsin, but that's a pretty good amount, I've seen the numbers, too, and it's pretty cool to see hockey growing, and a lot of good players coming from this area."
Kapla says his game improved a lot this past USHL season, but he knows there's still more work to do.
"Definitely just my skating," says Kapla, "because that league out there, Hockey East is a really fast league, lot of good, high-skilled players out there, so yeah, get a little faster, get a little quicker, work on my skating, just keep working on everything, because playing at that high level is going to be an adjustment, but I just gotta keep getting better."
Kapla is looking forward to experiencing life outside of the midwest.
"It'll be cool to go out east and just see what that's like," says Kapla, "because I've been living in the midwest, and I got to live in Sioux City, and now I get to see what the coast is like, I'm pretty excited for that."
Kapla won't be the only Wisconsin native on the UMass-Lowell roster. RiverHawks junior defenseman Jake Suter is from Lac du Flambeau.
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