Twin City Thunder’s Alex Rivet scores a goal against the South Shore Kings in a game during the 2020-21 season Andree Kehn/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

While he was deciding his athletic and education future, the thought of playing for a newer college hockey program was appealing to Alex Rivet.

So appealing that the Lewiston native and Twin City Thunder forward recently committed to Stevenson University, a NCAA Division III school that plays in United Collegiate Hockey Conference.

The school’s location, Pikesville, Maryland, also appealed to him because it is near the headquarters of Under Armour. Rivet plans to study business, and the Stevenson business school has an internship program with the athletic apparel company.

“When I first came to Twin City from (the Utica Jr. Comets), I had a meeting with (Thunder) coach (Dan) Hodge, and he asked me what my intentions were for school and everything,” Rivet said. “I did want to venture out of Maine, I wanted to get out of the New England area.

“… Getting in contact with Stevenson, they are a newer program, they are only 5 years old, and they play in the UCHC, which is a great conference. They are a team that is on the rise, they are 10-2 right now. Last year they were 11th in the country a majority of the year and lost in the conference final.”

The 21-year-old Rivet, who has eight goals and 14 assists for the Thunder’s NCDC team this season, also was considering a couple of Division III powerhouses in New England, the University of New England and University of Massachusetts Boston.

Like every Tier II junior hockey player in North America, Rivet’s ultimate goal was to play Division I hockey. He felt like he was on the cusp of receiving a Division I offer, but one never came, possibly because the NCAA is offering athletes at all levels and in all sports an extra year of eligibility because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Rivet said that he thought his play in Tampa at the USPHL Hub City event earlier this year may have garnered him a Division I opportunity.

“I had a good showing in Florida, I started to light it up. It was just wasn’t enough,” Rivet said. “I feel like the biggest thing was the recruiting because I was finding at the Division III level, meeting with those schools, a lot of those athletes are taking an extra year of eligibility.”

Rivet said that the Stevenson coaching staff expects there to be room for  him in the lineup next year.

“(Stevenson) said they weren’t trying to recruit a (big) class and they want to bring in the right guys,” Rivet said. “They said I could play in the lineup right away, either a top-six role or a bottom-six role, and still do really well.”

The Stevenson coaching staff told Rivet they like how well he sees the ice, that he can make plays out of nothing and has a heavy shot.

Rivet’s path to college hockey has included many stops and many abrupt turns.

He helped Lewiston High School win Class A state championships in 2016 and 2017. He left Lewiston following his junior year and spent the the 2017-18 and 2018-19 seasons playing at Middlesex School in Concord, Massachusetts. Soon after the conclusion of his second season at Middlesex, Rivet joined the L/A  Nordiques for their 2018-19 playoff run. The following season, Rivet signed a tender with the Maine Nordiques of the North American Hockey League. There also have been stops in Manitoba and Utica before returning to Lewiston-Auburn last fall.

Twin City Thunder’s Alex Rivet, second from left, and Dom Chasse work together to score a goal during a junior hockey game in Auburn in October 2020. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

Twin City assistant coach Robichaud has coached Rivet for most of his junior hockey career — as the L/A Nordiques head coach and an assistant with the Maine Nordiques and the Thunder — and said that he has noticed a lot of improvement by Rivet this season.

“I think he’s a player — like anyone looking to improve his game, he asks a lot of questions, he wants to learn, he wants to better himself with and without the puck,” Robichaud said. “Without the puck, it’s something he has focused on a lot over the last year. He recognizes he’s an age-out (player). There’s no time like the present to improve on the areas that might not be his strength. He has put a lot of time into the defensive end and working at that. It has paid off for him.”

UNIQUE YEAR

Rivet was released by the Maine Nordiques in January 2020 and finished the season in Manitoba.

Returning home to the Lewiston-Auburn area wasn’t his plan for the 2020-21 season. He wanted another shot at playing in the NAHL.

He received that opportunity, trying out for the Johnstown Tomahawks last summer, but was a cut on the final day of training camp after the Tomahawks acquired a player from the United States Hockey League, the lone Tier I junior hockey league in the United States.

Rivet joined the Utica Jr. Comets, who obtained his USPHL National Collegiate Development Conference rights by drafting him last summer. After a short stay in Utica, he realized that he wanted to return home to the Lewiston-Auburn area.

“I thought about going back to the NAHL, I had a couple of teams lined up, I was going to do it,” Rivet said. “But I felt like my (age-out) year, I wanted to go to a team where I can find success and be one of the top guys and build a culture from there. Obviously, I didn’t like my time in Utica, and when I got traded to Twin City — asking Coach Hodge for that trade, it was the best thing for me.”

Rivet said the team was welcoming to him when he joined the Thunder on Oct. 16. He also was reunited with Robichaud, who was let go as the Maine Nordiques Prep Academy U16 coach around the same time.

(Assistant coach) Caleb Labrie and Dan Hodge were speaking with him about potentially moving back home about the same time I joined the Thunder,” Robichaud said. “It was my first week with the Thunder, and the first player discussion to come across the table was Alex Rivet. I was all for bringing him back home.”

From the start, Rivet made an impact on and off the ice.

“(Rivet) is one of those guys that when a new guy comes to town, he’s the first guy to volunteer to go pick them up and introduce them around (the team),” Hodge said. “He makes guys feel comfortable and he has been fantastic for us. I was really happy he decided he wanted to play back here this season. Again, he has been a really good leader and really has helped us out, being a 2000-born, he’s a guy we’ve leaned on.”

Rivet’s services in welcoming new players have been used often, as the Thunder have played 46 different players this season.

Rivet wanted to use his experience of jumping from team to team during his junior career to help new players feel welcome.

“When I came in, I had a meeting with Coach Hodge, and it was me stepping in and being a leader,” Rivet said. “Not necessarily getting (the captaincy), but being an age-out, I (have played) in different leagues and can welcome in new players.

“Junior hockey, a lot can happen; you can find a best friend on a team one week and the next week he’s gone. It’s just how it works, it’s a business at the end of the day. The biggest thing for me was welcoming the new guys because I have been in their shoes before, coming into a new team and you don’t know anyone.”

The Thunder’s season will have an exciting finish this weekend. They have reached the NCDC semifinals in Pittston, Pennsylvania, and will face the Jersey Hitmen on Saturday. If Twin City wins, it will take on the winner of the other semifinal between the Rockets Hockey Club and Junior Bruins for the Dineen Cup on Sunday.

ANOTHER D-III BLUE DEVIL

Lewiston’s Alex Rivet controls the puck around the back of the net while being chased by Falmouth’s Reece Armitage during the 2017 Class A championship game at the Colisee in Lewiston. Sun Journal file photo

Rivet won’t the only recent Lewiston High School player to play at the Division III level. His former Nordiques teammates Cole Ouellette is playing at the University of Southern Maine and Jeromey Rancourt is at Plymouth State, and Alex Robert will be playing at Trinity College.

Rivet said that he has taken time to appreciate the high level of talent he was able to play with in high school.

“It’s awesome to see these guys move onto the next level,” Rivet said. “It starts back to our high school coach (Jamie) Belleau and the work he has put in in practice and gearing us up for the state championships. That obviously leads into the junior hockey and to the collegiate level. Everything plays out at the end and it’s been great to see my former teammates where they are right now.”

Belleau said that he’s glad to see another of his former players go on to play at the collegiate level.

“Hockey is a hard sport, you have to be committed to play beyond high school and play some juniors, challenge yourself, continue to develop,” Belleau said. “All those kids did, and I am confident that there are others like Alex, Jeromey, Cole (on that team) that could do it. But, it takes a really take a huge commitment because it’s a sport of attrition.”


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