Two years with the Tampa Bay Juniors certainly delivered the dividends for Champlin, Minn.’s own Jonah Mortenson.
Mortenson closed a second season with the Juniors by reaching the USPHL National Championships and, not long thereafter, committing to NCAA Division III Hamline University.
“I started talking to Hamline about a week or two after being home from the USPHL National tournament,” said Mortenson, who finished his Tampa career with 82 points in 56 games. “I met with head coach [Shane] Wagner and went on my visit. He expressed how he liked my big, strong, fast and aggressive game.”
A program that got its start in 2001 has made two NCAA appearances and also saw Wagner improve their year over year wins total from four to 13.
“Hamline struck my interest because they play in the MIAC conference, a very competitive conference run out of Minnesota,” said Mortenson. “Hamline playing out of Minnesota really struck my interest due to them playing not even 30 minutes away from home in Champlin, Minn. Academically, they are an excellent school with a smaller campus and one on one help so I may excel in my school work.”
While undecided on his major as of now, he is excited to join a vibrant and small college community at Hamline.
“I really loved the size of the school. Hamline is on the smaller side, but not too small, I would consider it almost the perfect size,” he said. “Hamline just offered everything I was looking for in a school and a hockey program.”
Two years ago, he found everything he was looking for in a junior hockey program, when he joined the Tampa Bay Juniors. Tampa Bay has a very strong connection to Minnesota, as the Co-Owner Brett Strot played for the University of Minnesota, and his brother, Head Coach Garrett Strot, played for Bethel University. Garrett also coached Osseo High School as head coach for 14 years.
“I loved playing for Tampa in my junior hockey career. I had originally committed to playing for Tampa if things didn’t work out in the NAHL fresh out of high school. Garret and Bret Strot assured me that Tampa would be the best place for me to excel and become a better hockey player and that’s exactly what happened,” he said. “I took everything my coaches said to heart. Along with that and a good work ethic, great workouts and skills-specific on-ice sessions, I became the player and person I am today.”
That player registered 55 points to claim his first USPHL Florida Division All-Star honors in 2021-22 and followed it up with 29 points in 21 games this past season to repeat as an All-Star. He also played 15 games in the NCDC for the Twin City Thunder, registering a 1-4-5 line. He credits Tampa for his success in a short NCDC stint as well.
“The Juniors’ model of development that they claim definitely lived up to its title. I made sure I came to the rink every day with the mentality that I wanted to be a better hockey player than I was the day before,” Mortenson said. “Because of that work ethic, the Strots put me in a great position to be successful but more importantly to get better at the game of hockey.”
”Jonah came in a made a huge impact on our team from day 1 both on and off the ice!” commented Head Coach Garrett Strot. ”Morty has a high compete level in both practices and games. Not only is he dedicated on ice but off ice as well coming early every day to improve and get better. Hamline is getting a player that will have this same impact on their program. I am looking forward to watching his college career!”
Through playing for the Juniors, Mortenson got to play in the USPHL Premier and NCDC, and got to take advantage of the USPHL’s unmatched Showcase Series, including a showcase the Juniors hosted in January that featured teams from the Florida and Southeast teams taking on teams from the Midwest divisions.
“The USPHL is a great league in just about all aspects. In terms of scouting there were rows of scouts at every showcase I attended. There were plenty of opportunities and ways to get your name out there so schools could keep on you along with keeping tabs,” he said. “The USPHL did great in preparing my game for the next level, the variety of ways to play the game from team to team and league to league forced me to always be ready to adapt and always keep my instincts sharp.”
In terms of keeping his game sharp to be ready for the big jump to NCAA hockey, he has a lot planned this summer back in Minnesota.
“I am most looking forward to improving on my skill asset of the game this off season. I’m already proud of my strong suits such as my strength speed and aggression. I will continue to improve them of course because they are such an important part of the game, though I would like to improve on assets that can not always be improved in the weight room such as my skating, shooting, hockey IQ and flexibility,” he added. “I feel if I get those aspects down, my game would become much more complete.”
The USPHL congratulates Jonah Mortenson, his family, the Tampa Bay Juniors and Hamline University for his commitment.
Nelson Changes Commitment
Connor Nelson, who previously committed to Northland College has decided to play at the University of Dubuque for 23-24. ”The Head Coach and Assistant that recruited me to Northland left and are now coaching at Dubuque and I decided to follow them.” remarked Nelson. ”I was really excited to play for them and was offered to follow them to Dubuque. The school and its facilities were amazing!”
D Dunn contributed to this article