Former Alpena High icer signs with Midland University

Ben Henry’s hockey career has taken him everywhere from Detroit to Battle Creek to Toledo to Montana to Oregon.

But after several years of hopping from team to team, Henry knows where he’ll be playing hockey for the next four years.

Henry, a former Alpena High School hockey player, signed with ACHA Division 1 Midland University on Sunday at Northern Lights Arena. He’ll part of the very first men’s hockey team for Midland, a small college in Fremont, Neb., about 25 miles from Omaha and plans to major in business management with a minor in sports management.

“It’s going to be fun I think. This school is obviously new to hockey, so they’re excited to have us there. I’ve already visited and talked to numerous students and they’re all pretty excited,” Henry said. “The first year is probably going to be a little rocky, but everything is when you’re starting out.”

Midland will be Henry’s 10th team since 2008 and at 21, he’s put a lot of miles in on the youth and junior hockey circuits. He played for Alpena High as a sophomore during the 2008-09 season and then moved to Detroit and played with Victory Honda U18 for two seasons. During the 2011-12 season, he played with three teams, including a 13-game stint with the Detroit Falcons where he played with his younger brother Jason. Later that season, he was drafted into the North America Tier III Hockey League by the Toledo Cherokee and led the team to the playoffs. Henry played briefly with the Michigan Grrrowl of the Midwest Junior Hockey League during the 2012-13 season, but ended the year in Montana in the American West Hockey League in stints with the Bozeman Ice Dogs and Helena Bighorns. Henry also led the Bighorns to the playoffs.

Last season, Henry played with the Southern Oregon Spartans in the Western States Hockey League and served as team captain.

In his hockey career since leaving Alpena, Henry has 94 career points (53-41).

He’ll join the Warriors as a center and figures to be an important offensive threat under rookie head coach Jason Cirone. Cirone coached against Henry in the NA3HL and brings a wealth of experience as Midland’s coach. Cirone is a former NHL player with the Winnipeg Jets and Florida Panthers and also played for Italy in the 2006 Winter Olympics.

After Cirone got the Midland job, he saw Henry play in a showcase out west and the two of them talked about the idea of Henry playing for Midland. Once he visited the campus, Henry was sold. Cirone was on-hand for Henry’s signing on Sunday, coming all the way from Nebraska.

“I think his offensive skills and his leadership skills (are important),” Cirone said of Henry. “Being a new program, we want to bring in quality people that can lead us in the right direction and I believe he’s going to do that with his silent strength (leading by example) and offensively.”

Cirone will be looking for Henry to not only step up as a scorer, but to also emerge as a playmaker with a knack for setting up teammates on Midland’s top line. Henry will be joined by a class that includes players from all over the United States as well as countries like Mexico and Sweden. Part of that incoming class includes two of his former Spartan teammates-Taylor McConnell and Rob Donovan.

For Henry, the chance to play with the Warriors not only furthers his hockey career, it also provides stability he hasn’t had with hockey in several years. His 45 games with Southern Oregon last season were the most he’s played with a single team since 2010-11.

“Hopefully I get to stay there for four years and built some good friendships and whatnot. I’m excited to be in one place for awhile, instead of moving around,” Henry said. “That’s probably the biggest thing I didn’t like in Triple AAA was moving around. You had a home rink, but you never really played there. I’m glad we get to have a home rink and a home crowd and get a chance to be a part of something for four years.”

James Andersen can be reached via email at sports@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 358-5694. Follow James on Twitter @ja_alpenanews.