The Kenai River Brown Bears celebrate the first-period goal of Logan Ritchie (far left) on Thursday, Nov. 21, 2019, at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

The Kenai River Brown Bears celebrate the first-period goal of Logan Ritchie (far left) on Thursday, Nov. 21, 2019, at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Bears forward Ritchie commits to St. Lawrence

Kenai River Brown Bears forward Logan Ritchie has earned a commitment to Division I St. Lawrence University of the ECAC.

Kenai River head coach Kevin Murdock said the good news is welcome after the Bears had the end of their season and the playoffs canceled due to the threat of the new coronavirus.

“It’s awesome anytime someone makes a commitment to a Division I school, but especially with the circumstances going on right now,” Murdock said.

The 5-foot-11, 192-pound Ritchie played in two seasons for the Bears. In 2018-19, he appeared in 43 games and had five goals and seven assists. This season, the 20-year-old played in 52 games and his numbers soared, with 22 goals and 26 assists. Even in the second half of the season when the Bears had some struggles, Ritchie was able to put together a 10-game point streak.

“I’m really excited for the opportunity to play at a school with such a rich hockey history and strong academic reputation,” Ritchie said. “I have had so much support from my family, coaches, teammates, teachers and friends over the years and now to see the hard work pay off gives me motivation to excel as a student-athlete,” Ritchie said in a statement released by the NAHL. “I also owe a lot to the Kenai River Brown Bears organization and fans as we were having a good year, which gave us visibility in the league.”

Murdock said it was more than hockey that got Ritchie his commitment to St. Lawrence, which is in Canton, New York. The coach said Kenai River has some smart players, but the native of O’Fallon, Missouri, rises to the top when it comes to test scores and grades.

“That makes a difference, especially at a school like St. Lawrence that’s a good academic school, a school not everyone can get into,” Murdock said. “He also put himself into a class where you can get some money based on academics, which helps.”

Murdock, in his first year as coach of the Bears, didn’t know a lot about Ritchie, who was coming off a summer shoulder surgery, before this season.

After Kenai River’s first four games, he earned a spot centering a line with Eagle River’s Zach Krajnik, who already had a commitment to Division I University of Alaska Anchorage, and Theo Thrun, who would commit to Division I Western Michigan University during the season.

“He just got better and better as the season went on,” Murdock said.

Ritchie was selected to play at the Top Prospects Tournament in mid-February and there talked to St. Lawrence for the first time.

The Brown Bears now have six Division I commitments listed for the season. Three players moved up to the United States Hockey League, the only Tier I league in the United States, this season.

Murdock said that bodes well for the team’s future.

“At the end of the day, this is still a development level,” Murdock said. “Guys are still trying to move up in hockey. Team success leads to individual success. When guys advance to college and the USHL, it certainly helps.”

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