WAYNE, N.J. — Josh Henke remembers watching the 1999 NCAA championship game on TV between the University of Maine and the University of New Hampshire at the Arrowhead Pond in Anaheim, Calif. Maine won 3-2 in overtime.
He was 4 years old.
Maine’s victory left a lasting impression on the youngster.
“And their team colors intrigued me,” said Henke.
Henke will get the opportunity to wear Maine’s colors next fall as the (New) Jersey Hitmen center has verbally committed to attend the Maine on a hockey scholarship.
Henke, a native of Trenton, Mich., is tied for the scoring lead in the Eastern Junior Hockey League with 43 points on 18 goals and 25 assists in 27 games entering Wednesday night’s contest against the Philadelphia Revolution.
“This is pretty much a dream come true,” said the 18-year-old Henke. “Going to school out East has been my dream, and Maine is my favorite school out there.”
Henke had originally committed to Ferris State (Mich.) but he said he was 15 at the time “and I didn’t take much time to think about it.”
“Being from Michigan, I decided I wanted to go out of state to college. Maine is also known for the outdoors (activities), and I’m a big outdoors guy,” said Henke.
Henke had six goals and 12 assists in 41 games last season in the United States Junior Hockey League for Muskegon and Tri-City.
Toby Harris, coach and general manager of the Hitmen, called the 5-foot-10, 205-pound Henke a “very, very skilled player.
“He sees the ice very well and once the puck is on his stick, you aren’t going to bump him off it,” said Harris, who played at Boston College from 1993 to 1097. “He’ll score double-digit goals, and he’ll have three times as many assists. He’s a very unselfish player. He’s good on faceoffs. And he’s slick.”
He compared Henke’s style of game to that of San Jose Sharks and former Boston Bruins center Joe Thornton.
Harris also said Henke takes “tremendous pride in his off-ice conditioning” and has just 6 percent body fat.
Henke consider himself a playmaker first.
“I take pride in making the players around me better,” he said. “Ever since I was young, I took pride in making (clever) passes that the (opponents) weren’t ready for.”
Henke feels he needs to get stronger and faster to help him with the transition next year and pointed out that he has been helped greatly this season by consulting with a sports psychologist on the mental aspect of the game.
He is already looking forward to next season.
“I think our freshman class is going to be one of the top ones in college hockey, and I’m excited about being part of it,” said Henke.
Henke will join three other Hitmen on the Maine roster: Junior right wing Jon Swavely, freshman center Steven Swavely and sophomore left wing Connor Leen.
His participation at Maine is contingent upon his acceptance into the school and his meeting NCAA initial eligibility requirements.