DenBeste drops his anchor
Former MSHS skater commits to Lake Superior State
CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — The Marquette area has a longstanding hockey tradition with several players heading off to play in college in their quest to make it to the top of the mountain in the National Hockey League.
Another former Marquette Senior High School skater has moved on to the next level as forward Spencer DenBeste has joined the U.S. Hockey League’s Cedar Rapids (Iowa) RoughRiders and verbally committed to play collegiately at Lake Superior State.
The 18-year-old left the Redmen after the 2014-15 season and has spent the past two years suiting up for the Soo Indians, an 18-under Midget AAA travel team based in Sault Ste. Marie.
In his first year with the eastern Upper Peninsula squad, he racked up 27 goals and 31 assists for 58 points in 60 games.
He followed that up with a 27-goal, 30-assist output last season and then spent a dozen games with the North American Hockey League’s Springfield (Illinois) Junior Blues.
Those impressive stats helped him get drafted by the RoughRiders in May, and now DenBeste gets a chance to play in the top junior hockey league in the country.
“My experience in the Soo was very good,” he said. “It’s small like any other U.P. town and the team is like a family. It’s definitely faster paced than in high school and I’m not putting high school down, it just gets more scouts watching you.”
He had eyes on him from the programs at Northern Michigan University, LSSU and Michigan Tech, too.
“All three of the U.P. (NCAA) Division I schools were there once per season. The Indians did a great job getting teams to come watch us.”
After getting drafted, DenBeste had to make the RoughRiders over the summer and now he gets a chance to showcase his talents even further.
“I’ll for sure be here a month and hopefully the whole season,” he said. “I’m really excited about it. There’s only been like a handful of people from Marquette who have played in it, so this is really cool.
“I drove through Iowa last year to go to another camp and there’s a lot of corn fields. Everybody is really nice and in this league, everyone wants to hold on a little longer. Most are committed to go to college and we’re all here for the same reason.”
Now that he’s a RoughRider, DenBeste will spend the next two years in Iowa before heading back to Sault Ste. Marie to play for the Lakers. That’s typically how the league works with players getting two years of quality experience before moving to the highly competitive Division I hockey world.
DenBeste also said that out of all the college teams that looked at him, the Lakers were his best landing spot.
“Lake State wants me in two years, so I guess I could go in one year depending on how things go, but for right now, I’ll be there in two years,” DenBeste said. “Lake State is close to home and I love the staff there. I love the facility and they have lots of things that I like to do, like hunt and fish. So on off days I can do that.
“Everyone in the Soo already knows me, too. So that’s the main reason.
“They also have both degrees that I want to go into (mechanical engineering or financial advisement). Northern and other schools looked at me, but I thought Lake State was the best fit for me.”
After being down as a program for quite awhile, the Lakers have turned things around recently. They’ve made the WCHA playoffs the last three years and DenBeste thinks by the time he gets there, the Lakers will be even better.
“There’s a lot of kids that have committed there that I know really well,” he said. “They’re all really good players, so by the time I get there, we’ll be really good.
“They were good last year and they started off 5-0, but then I think they had some guys get some NHL looks so maybe they started to play individually. I just love the program there and I can play in front of my family, too, so I’m really excited.”
The RoughRiders open their preseason today on the road at the Dubuque (Iowa) Fighting Saints and their regular season begins Oct. 6 against the Green Bay Gamblers at the Resch Center in Green Bay, Wisconsin.
Ryan Stieg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252. His email address is email@example.com.