HOUGHTON - Winning and an up-tempo playing style are two key qualities Michigan Tech hockey coach Mel Pearson brought to the Huskies last year, and of the Huskies' seven 2012-13 recruits, perhaps none epitomizes those qualities better than C.J. Eick.
Eick, a 5-foot-7, 160-pound forward from Appleton, Wis., won the United States Hockey League's Clark Cup with the Green Bay Gamblers this spring, and he will instantly bring game-changing breakaway speed to Tech's lineup.
"C.J. is obviously a kid we wanted on our team," Pearson said. "We're not going to expect C.J. to come in and score a lot, but he adds his speed and offensive awareness, he's a great penalty killer and he comes from a championship environment."
In 113 regular season and 23 playoff games with the Gamblers, Eick only tallied 18 goals and 21 assists, but he was valuable in other ways on the ice, as evidenced by his role as assistant captain on a team that included 20 other players with Division I hockey scholarships, eight of them for the Western Collegiate Hockey Association.
"He'll fit in nicely to our style of play and aggressive system," Pearson said. "He's a combination of (current Huskies forwards Mikael) Lickteig or (Dennis) Rix, with (former Huskies standout Chris) Conner-like breakaway speed, but he can score more than he has at the junior level."
Pearson added that his value cannot be underestimated as a penalty killer and aggressiver forechecker, going so far as to compare him to John Madden who Pearson coached at Michigan and set the all-time NCAA record for shorthanded goals.
"I'm going to be doing lots of penalty killing and bring some speed, banging a few goals in when I can," said Eick, who played for Gamblers assistant coach and former Huskies coach Pat Mikesch in Green Bay. "Basically, I just try to have an impact in the game, whether it's my speed beating D men wide or making a hit. I want to have an impact every shift."
Eick learned a lot about the game of hockey from Mikesch, but also a lot about Michigan Tech, and it was that, along with the facilities, proximity to home, Tech's coaching staff and the WCHA's competitiveness that swayed the 20-year-old to come north.
Eick has never really been that far away from Houghton having spent all but year of his life in the Appleton/Green Bay area. He was on skates by the time he was 2 or 3, playing by the time he was 5 and he's always specialized in hockey as a kid.
He played Midget AAA for the Green Bay Jr. Gamblers before heading to St. Louis during his last year of high school to play in the North American Hockey League. He wasn't gone long and was drafted in the 18th round of the 2010 USHL Entry draft.
"I grew up going to a ton of Gambler games when I was younger. When I got drafted by them, playing with that organization was awesome and I loved playing at home with friends and family watching every game," Eick said.
During his two years, Eick was on a USHL championship runner-up team before winning it all this spring.
"The mix of guys we had on that team was unbelievable. It was the perfect mix of talent. The compete level of everyone on that team was great," Eick said. "Everything mixed perfect and we had one of the best seasons in USHL history (47-9-0-4 regular season; USHL record 98 points and 25 road victories; Clark Cup)."
Eick fully landed on Tech's radar after the Sept. 21-24 USHL Fall Classic, and from there he was mostly recruited by Tech assistant coach Damon Whitten. Like in the 2011-12 WCHA playoffs, Tech beat out Colorado College to earn Eick, who was also recruited by Vermont, Providence and Merrimack.
That proximity to home was just too good to pass up for the only child of Jacques and Amy Eick.
"In high school my parents and I were obviously really close. Going to St. Louis was tough for them - it was tough because my dad loved coming to every game he could," C.J. said. "Both parents are extremely excited excited in my decision to come to Michigan Tech."
Eick has played at John MacInnes Student Ice Arena when he was in AAA midgets against the Ojibwa Eagles, and he liked the rink atmosphere then and during his recruiting visit.
Eick, whose main hobby outside of hockey is music and playing the guitar, will be pursuing a Sports and Fitness Management degree while at Tech, and he hopes to coach someday - after a long hockey playing career that will start at the college level this fall in Houghton.
EDITOR'S?NOTE:?This is the first in an occasional series of "Tech Tomorrow 2012"?articles throughout the summer on incoming Michigan Tech athletes in several programs.