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Alexandria-based team accepted into new prep hockey league

Alexandria boys hockey coach Ian Resch coaches his team from the bench at the Xcel Energy Center in the Cardinals' win over Hermantown on March 9, 2018. Resch touted Alexandria's high school team as one of the best in Minnesota right now after the Cardinals finished second in the Class A state tournament. Eric Morken / Forum News Service1 / 3
Construction of the $8.1 million NorthStar Sports Complex in Alexandria, Minn., is underway. The facility is on track to open mid-September. Beth Leipholtz / Forum News Service2 / 3
Rick Randazzo is the national Fellowship of Christian Athletes hockey director.3 / 3

ALEXANDRIA, Minn.—Despite not yet having a team assembled and an arena that is still under construction, a Christian school in Alexandria has been accepted into the inaugural season of a prep hockey league.

NorthStar Christian Academy in Alexandria will have team in the upcoming season of the North American Hockey League's Prep League, playing home games in an arena being built through the Fellowship of Christian athletes.

In February, NorthStar received news that it was awarded an affiliate agreement through Minnesota Hockey, the governing body of youth and amateur hockey in the state.

"We are able to have our academy team playing next year," said Rick Randazzo, the national Fellowship of Christian Athletes hockey director, who has an office at the academy.

NorthStar has begun recruitment efforts for the team.

"We're starting to recruit players in Minnesota, across the country and internationally," he said. "We think we'll have (players from) all three of those on the team."

According to Randazzo, potential players have visited Alexandria and 10 scouts have been providing information about NorthStar across the country. After attending a prospect camp in Boston in May, Randazzo says they will begin offering spots.

John Olver, who has 35 years of professional, collegiate and junior coaching experience, will coach the team. He played college hockey at the University of Michigan.

The league

The NAHL Prep League called itself "a premier training ground for the development and exposure of high school, Prep and Academy teams throughout North America" when announcing the formation of the new league in December. The league promotes itself as being able to train players and provide greater exposure for them by getting the athletes in front of more college or professional scouts at showcase events.

The NAHL's Prep League schedule will provide the team with 16 games. Randazzo says they are also hoping to schedule games with other hockey academies across the country, as well as take part in a few tournaments.

Other teams in the prep league include Fountain Valley School (Colorado Springs, Colorado), Gentry Academy (Vadnais Heights, Minnesota), Pilot Mound Hockey Academy (Pilot Mound, Manitoba, Canada), St. Rita of Cascia School (Chicago, Illinois) and Tahoe Prep Hockey Academy (Lake Tahoe, California).

The NAHL is expected to name more teams to the prep league in coming weeks. The NAHL Prep League has no affiliation to the Minnesota State High School League.

The arena

Construction for the NorthStar Sports Complex is on track to open mid-September. About $6.5 million of the necessary $8.1 million to build the arena has been raised, according to Randazzo.

The 70,000-square-foot facility will include a field house, hockey rink and chapel on a 40-acre campus, with space for expansion.

The arena will be the national headquarters for hockey for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

The academy and arena sit near Alexandria Area High School.

What about the public school?

Alexandria's boys high school team is coming off it's most successful season ever, advancing to the state championship in Class A where the Cardinals lost to Orono.

"I know community members are concerned about the impact the academy will have on our high school program," Cardinals head coach Ian Resch said. "Personally, I am not concerned. Players and families are looking for the program that best fits their needs."

Randazzo says NorthStar is not seeking out players from the high school.

"If people reach out — and we have had players reach out from Alexandria and ask for information — we provide the information," he said. "We're not actively targeting Alexandria players."

NorthStar

NorthStar Christian Academy, which opened in 2016, is not an accredited school but will offer players a combination of classroom and online courses.

"They'll be taking full-time class loads here in NorthStar next year," Randazzo said. "We'll be responsible for education, monitoring grades, proctoring tests. ... NorthStar will be the primary educator of these students."

According to the NorthStar's website, beginning Sept. 1, "we will be offering a diploma oriented, high school curriculum as the primary educational provider of our students as they progress towards earning their high school diploma."

NorthStar Christian Academy board member DuWayne Pauls said the hope is that dorms will be constructed for players to live in. In the meantime, they will live with host families in the area.

"A place to live and to continue education is something we owe these kids and their parents for sending them here from so far away," Paul said.

Eric Morken contributed to this report.

Beth Leipholtz

Beth is a reporter at the Echo Press. She graduated from the College of Saint Benedict in May 2015 with a degree in Communication and Hispanic Studies. Journalism has always been her passion, but she also enjoys blogging and graphic design. In her spare time, she's most likely at Crossfit or at home with her boyfriend and three dogs.

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