Tuesday, July 12, 2011

North Stars' Heinz chooses Wentworth

For the past two seasons, Curtis Heinz has helped engineer one of the stingiest and most productive defensive units in the North American Hockey League.

Come fall, the former Traverse City North Stars blueliner will do the same – on and off the ice – at Wentworth Institute of Technology in Boston.

Heinz, a native of Grand Rapids, came to the North Stars in an off-season trade from Wichita Falls ahead of the 2009-10 season. He immediately assumed a full workload, anchoring the TC defensive corps along with Travis White. In his two seasons with the Stars, Heinz compiled three goals and 34 assists in 102 regular season games, including a stellar +33 plus-minus rating over that span.

“Talk about a stead, steady, all-around performer,” said Traverse City head coach Chad Fournier. “First of all, he’s a great kid and a tremendous student, and he always did whatever was asked of him, played whatever role we need him to play. He really developed into a great leader for us, too. He deserves to play at the next level, and he has all to tools to succeed there on the ice and in the classroom.”

Wentworth is a private engineering and technical arts college with around 3,800 students and a sterling academic reputation. Heinz, who boasts an impressive 3.9 GPA and scored a 26 on his ACT, says his decision to go with Wentworth was based on scholastics and familiarity.

“First of all, the strong engineering program attracted me,” said Heinz, who plans to study electro-mechanical engineering. “And I know a few of the guys on the team, so there was a certain comfort level in that as well. My approach is always school first, hockey second, but they’re both big commitments and I look forward to the challenge.”

The Jaguars, who play in the NCAA Division III East Coast Athletic Conference, finished 14-9-4 overall last season, including a 10-3-1 mark in ECAC action. Wentworth made it to the ECAC Northeast finals last March before bowing out to Curry College in overtime in the championship game.

With four years of junior hockey seasoning, Heinz says he is well-prepared for the rigors of collegiate hockey.

“Juniors helps you develop the necessary work ethic, learn good practice habits, and manage your time,” he explained. “And Traverse City was a great place to play. Everything was first-class, from the coaching staff and (majority owner) Raj (Wiener), to my awesome billet family (Adam and Amanda Hilt).

“I also owe a lot of thanks to my family. My mom and dad and (brother) Grady have always supported me and played a big part in helping me try to reach my goals.”

With Heinz and White (Ferris State) headed to school in the fall, and another TC tandem of defenders (Connor Schmidt, Chris Dienes) likely headed to the USHL, Fournier, GM Anthony Palumbo and the North Stars coaching staff have been hard at work looking to re-tool the Stars’ defense this off-season. Those efforts will continue at the club’s final open tryout camp of the summer, set for July 26-28 at Centre ICE Arena. The top players from that camp – as well as returning vets, tenders, and draft picks – will convene at Centre ICE on July 29-31 for the annual invite-only training camp. The Stars’ 2011-12 roster will be picked following the three-day event.

“We have a lot of good players, but it’s still an ongoing annual process and there are still spots to be won,” Fournier added. “That final open camp will be an important step in assembling what we feel will be another strong team. We’re all pretty excited about it.”

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