FAIRBANKS—Garret Clemment’s first visit to Lake Superior State University was with the rest of the Fairbanks Ice Dogs.
He was recently at the school in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., for an official campus visit. The next time he goes there will be as a student-athlete.
The second-year Ice Dogs left wing announced Tuesday that he has committed to Lake Superior State, which is a Central Collegiate Hockey Association rival of the Alaska Nanooks. The rivalry continues next season when the NCAA Division I teams join the Western Collegiate Hockey Association.
The Nanooks, said Clemment, did express interest in him but he was drawn to Lake Superior State, where he also plans to pursue a degree in business.
Clemment was introduced to Lake Superior State when he and the Ice Dogs were in Sault Ste. Marie for a North American Hockey League exhibition series against the Soo Eagles in early September.
Sault Ste. Marie, on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and next door to the Canadian province of Ontario, is the hometown of Ice Dogs general manager Rob Proffitt, and this season’s Lake Superior roster includes freshman defenseman and former Ice Dog Pete Spratte.
“I like the small-town atmosphere. The entire town is a hockey town, just like Fairbanks,’’ Clemment, during a telephone interview Tuesday night, said of Sault. Ste. Marie.
“The coaches were very friendly and they were all very welcoming,’’ Clemment continued. “They showed us the lockerrooms and we got to watch a practice. There was nothing I disliked; I just had a blast there.”
The Lakers coaches’ hospitality stayed with the 19-year-old from Mosinee, Wis., because he made his campus visit two weeks ago.
“He picks a lot of players with speed, which is one of my biggest assets,” Clemment said of Lakers head coach Jim Roque. “He’s a very down-to-Earth guy. He said if you’re playing well, you’re going to get playing time; he was very up front.
“I thought it was the best fit for me,” Clemment said.
Ice Dogs head coach Trevor Stewart said he thinks that the 5-foot-10, 170-pound wing will be a good fit for the Lakers.
“He’s a terrific skater, he protects the puck really and he has a heavy shot,’’ Stewart said Tuesday from Soldotna, where the Ice Dogs face the Kenai River Brown Bears in an NAHL West Division series Friday and Saturday night in the Soldotna Sports Center.
Stewart also has seen Clemment develop into a two-way player this season.
“His game is becoming more and more that way,’’ Stewart said. “He still has a lot of room for development, which is very encouraging for Lake Superior State.”
Clemment’s growth is evident in his statistics for the Ice Dogs, who hold first place in the West Division at 18-6-0.
Clemment, in 24 games this season, has matched his points total for all of last season.
He had nine goals and 16 assists for 25 points in 53 games in 2011-12. This season, his 11-14-25 totals lead the Ice Dogs in scoring.
Clemment said he is more confident compared to last season, when he was adjusting to a new team and a new league.
“I wasn’t confident with the puck last season because I didn’t know what to expect,’’ he said. “I knew what I would be seeing this season and I have that confidence to get the job done. I knew what I had to do to get the puck in the net this year, and that’s helping me a lot.”
Contact staff writer Danny Martin at 459-7586.