Clay Van Diest will suit up for the St. Norbert Green Knights (NCAA DIII) next season.
Van Diest was acquired by the Oil Caps on November 12, 2014 from the Portage Terriers. In 38 games for the burgundy and black, the Helena, Montana native notched 15 points (2 G, 13 A) for a total of 27 points on the season (6 G, 21 A).
“The trade to Virden caught me a bit off guard when it happened, but it turned into the a blessing in disguise for my career,” said Van Diest of the trade to Virden. “I couldn’t have asked for a better team to end my Junior hockey with. The coaching staff and whole organization is run very professionally and I appreciate everything they have done for me during my time there.”
The St. Norbert men’s hockey program has one of the greatest winning traditions in the history of NCAA division three hockey. In the past 11 seasons, the Green Knights have made it to the NCAA national championship game seven times, capturing the DIII crown four times in 2008, 2011, 2012, and 2014.
“I’m very excited about furthering my hockey career to the NCAA level. I have been in touch with Coach Coghlin and their staff over the past couple of seasons and everything seemed to feel right about going there,” stated Van Diest in an interview from his car as he traveled from the St. Norbert campus in De Pere, WI to his hometown of Helena, MT. He continued,“Academically they have exactly what I want to take for a degree and everything seems just like a perfect fit.”
The perfect fit academically that Van Diest speaks of will consist of a major in English while picking up a minor in Theology – All of this in preparation for a degree in Education.
“We are very proud of Clay for reaching his goals of playing at the NCAA level. We spoke a lot about what he wanted to do after he was done here (in Virden), but ultimately he was very focused and mature about the whole process and we wish him all the best as he moves on to the St. Norbert program,” said Troy Leslie, the Head Coach and General Manager for the Oil Caps.
Van Diest is the first Oil Cap this off-season to commit to an NCAA school for the fall.
Van Diest is the first Oil Caps’ player to commit to the NCAA this off-season. He will join former Neepawa Natives forward, Stephen Phillips, in next year’s St. Norbert freshmen class while Steinbach’s David Robertson (Norwich), Winkler’s Jon Carlson (Fredonia), Winnipeg’s Jake Stilwell (Concordia, MN) and Mack Heisinger (Curry College) will also make the jump from the MJHL to the NCAA DIII level next season. The MJHL has also had NCAA Division I commitments this season from Steinbach’s Nick Deery (Minnesota-Duluth), Tyler Penner (Colgate University), Portage’s Tyler Jeanson (Colgate University), and a verbal commitment to the University of North Dakota from Winnipeg’s Jackson Keane.
The St. Norbert Green Knights play in the Northern Collegiate Hockey Assocation and are coached by Tim Coghlin. To give you a feel of the team’s winning history, in 2014-15 the Green Knights finished 20-6-2 while falling in the NCHA finals to the Adrian Bulldogs – their worst season in six years.