By Kevin Scott
GREAT FALLS, Mont., May 5, 2017 — A defenseman who spent this past season as a member of the Great Falls Americans Junior A hockey team will move up to the college ranks and continue his education and playing career this fall.
During the 2016-17 season with the North American 3 Hockey League’s Great Falls Americans, he led the team in assists with 67 assists and was one of the top assist makers in the league. The new college signee accumulated 20 goals in 52 games this season for coach Jeff Heimel’s team, who finished with an overall record of 41-5-3-3 and a playoff appearance. Danny O’Donnell, the 6’2” hockey team leader from Ventura, California will attend the Illinois-based Aurora University Spartans men’s hockey program in the fall. The Spartans are a NCAA Division III school in Aurora, Illinois (located 41 miles from Chicago) that is associated with the Northern Collegiate Hockey Association (NCHA).
The Business major had his best performance of the season in a November contest against the Missoula Jr. Bruins when he scored one goal and tallied four assists in Great Falls’ 6-0 shutout victory at the Great Falls Ice Plex.
Danny also was invited to participate in the 2017 NA3HL Top Prospects Tournament in Plymouth, Michigan in February where he played for the White team, consisting of members of the Frontier and West Division teams. He helped guide the White team to a 2-1 record while picking up three assists during the two-day tournament that attracted many scouts and college coaches.
In April 2017, the Americans assist leader was named the NA3HL Defenseman of the Year and was one of six members on the All-NA3HL First Team during the league awards announcement (Full story).
The 21-year-old previously played for the Sicamous Eagles, a British Columbia team that participates in the Kootenay International Hockey League (KJHL). The California native scored nine goals while dishing out 17 assists during the 2015-16 season.
The defenseman was excited about the accomplishments by the Americans during the 2016-17 season. “The team did really well all season long and it showed in the rink when we made the (Frontier) Divisional Finals,” said O’Donnell. “My personal accomplishment was winning the (NA3HL) Defenseman Player of the Year award and making the First All-NA3HL squad.”
“I will now be playing with bigger, faster and stronger guys at the collegiate level and I hope to develop into an even better hockey player,” said the outgoing Americans standout in response to what he looks forward to most at the next level.
He also was enthusiastic about the Americans coaching staff. Heimel and assistant coach Erik Gatson helped motivate the players by making sure they had a good mind-set during each game regardless of the competition.
After playing in 47 regular season contests and five in the playoffs, he will enjoy a much shorter season while playing for the Spartans, who only play in 25. Their seasons runs from October through February.
“I loved my time here in Great Falls and want to thank my billet family (Steven and Carlee Fox) for making my time with the Americans special.”
Click here to view Danny O’Donnell’s statistics with the Americans.
Click here for a full listing of NA3HL college commitments.
Additional Media Coverage: May 7, 2017: Great Falls Tribune: Nast, O’Donnell sign college tenders