Kelleher brothers continue to pursue hockey dreams


Dec. 26, 2012
Longmeadow's Tyler Kelleher, a member of the U.S. National Under-18 hockey team, and his brother Charlie (not pictured) have both committed to play Division 1 college hockey at the University of New Hampshire.
Photo courtesy of Tom Sorensen
By Chris Maza

chrism@thereminder.com

LONGMEADOW — A recent post on Tyler Kelleher's Twitter account read, "Just watched a great story on Danny Woodhead. Guy never gave up," followed by two hashtags — #RoleModel and #Inspiration.

While they play two different sports, Tyler and Charlie Kelleher, the hockey phenom brothers from Longmeadow, have quite a bit in common with the New England Patriots running back.

While diminutive in size — Tyler measures in at five-foot-six and Charlie at five-foot-eight — the two, like Woodhead, are blessed with speed, precision, incredible skill and playmaking ability, especially when they are able to get out into the open.

That talent, along with a boatload of hard work, has allowed the brothers the opportunity to ascend some of the highest levels of American hockey to this point.

Tyler, currently a member of the U.S. National Under-18 team in Ann Arbor, Mich., and Charlie, playing for the Boston Junior Bruins in the United States Elite Hockey League, have both committed to play Division 1 college hockey at the University of New Hampshire (UNH).

UNH, currently the second-ranked team in the country, according to U.S. College Hockey Online (www.USCHO.com) and USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine polls, is considered one of the top programs in one the country's premiere college hockey conferences, Hockey East, which also features historic hockey powers Boston College and Boston University.

Most recently, the Wildcats made 10 consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances from 2002 to 2011, including two Frozen Fours in 2002 and 2003. They have also captured five regular season championships and two conference tournament championships since 2000.

When asked about the prospect of playing on the same college team as his brother, both Tyler and Charlie used one term to describe it — a dream.

"When he committed, it was really cool. We've been playing hockey together our whole lives, whether it is playing street hockey everyday or me practicing with his team. To be playing on the same D-1 team after all these years, it's like a dream come true," Tyler said.

For Charlie, as soon as his brother committed and he was exposed to the UNH program, he knew he wanted to follow a similar path.

"Ever since my brother committed to go there, it's pretty much been a dream of mine to go there. When they actually offered, it only took me a couple days to decide that's where I wanted to go," he said.

Both agreed that it was the coaching staff that made them sure UNH was the place for them.

"The coaching staff won me over. They are great guys who work with the player. You get the feeling that they really care about you even before you get there," Charlie said.

Tyler helped Longmeadow High School to the Division III state championship as a freshman and would have been a senior for the Lancers this year, but instead left for Deerfield Academy, where he played for a year before joining the U.S. National Team Development Program.

With the Under-17 team last year, Tyler was the team's leading scorer with 17 goals and 13 assists in 36 games. This season, he's nearly a point-per-game player, with 14 goals and 14 assists through 29 games.

With the U.S. National Team, Tyler has been able to see college-caliber talent up close, including the weekend of Dec. 8 and 9 when the Under-18 team took three points in two games against Hockey East opponents

"We played two colleges this year. It's faster, they're much stronger and it's much more structured for sure," he said. "You have to make quicker decisions and quicker plays to buy more space. Some of them are 24-year-old men."

Tyler scored a goal in a 3-1 win over Merrimack College and also took part in a 2-2 tie against the Wildcats. At that game, a sign reading, "Welcome to UNH, Kelleher," was hung.

"That was awesome. It made me a lot more excited to go to UNH," he said. "They were ranked No. 1 in the country, so it was really cool to get to play them at that time."

Tyler has also had the opportunity to skate with National Hockey League talent, something he said gave him the chance to learn about their practice habits and level of competition.

With the exposure, Tyler said he's also had the opportunity to learn where his strengths lie and how to better utilize it.

"It's always about finding time and space because I'm a smaller guy," he said.

Because of that skill set, with one of the largest ice sheets in college hockey, UNH's home rink at the Whittemore Center would help him.

While droves of professional scouts come out to U.S. Development Team games, Tyler said he hasn't given much thought to a future in hockey beyond college.

"There are a lot of NHL scouts at all of our games," he said. "They're at every single game. We all know that. But we try not to think about it too much. We just try to take it day-by-day and get better everyday."

Much like his brother, Charlie also starred as a freshman for Longmeadow High School, leading the Lancers to a Western Massachusetts championship last season while compiling 23 goals and 31 assists in 20 games before moving on to the Junior Bruins. The Bruins, he said, has given him a look at what talent from throughout the country looks like.

"The size and the speed are definitely a factor in the game. The players are a lot faster and more physical," Charlie said of the difference between Juniors and high school hockey. "You definitely get a different level of exposure to players. You're able to see what's really out there in terms of skill, which you wouldn't get to see playing high school hockey. It opens your eyes more to what you have to work on."

Charlie added that with the realization of the size of the players and the speed of the game, he has been able to identify the remaining weaknesses and make a conscious effort to rectify those.

"I definitely realized while playing with kids a lot older than me that I need to get stronger, so I've been working on that a lot more," he said.

Charlie has gotten off to a strong start in 2012, recording a goal and an assist in his first three games.


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