John Kemmeter, The Portage County Gazette
University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point (UWSP) men’s hockey senior forward Kyle Sharkey will continue his playing career after he signed a professional contract Friday, March 24.
After helping the Pointers make four consecutive NCAA Division III Tournament appearances and win the 2016 National Title, Sharkey will join the Huntsville Havoc of the Southern Professional Hockey League (SPHL).
“I wanted to play pro hockey, that’s something that I’ve been trying to do for 22 years now,” said Sharkey. “It’s been a goal of mine.”
A native of Moore, Okla., Sharkey eventually wound up in Stevens Point after he bypassed his final two years of high school hockey to instead play junior hockey for the Topeka RoadRunners of the North American Hockey League, which is open to players between 16 and 21 years of age.
During the week the team would travel for division games in Kansas, Texas and Louisiana, which made keeping up with a regular high school class schedule difficult, so Sharkey decided to attend high school online through the Insight School of Kansas.
“It’s hard to play catch up once you get behind, and then sometimes teachers aren’t too thrilled that you’re always coming in to ask for extensions or get late-work packets or missed assignments,” said Sharkey. “A lot of kids that are still in school and are playing junior or they’re traveling a lot are starting to do online school.
“I was able to stay on top of it a lot easier, instead of having to go to each teacher and get packets and make up work for stuff I missed and try and play catch up, I was able to just be a normal student and play hockey at the same time,” he said. “Just like any other high school, you get your classes and then they have it set up in modules, so for each class they’d have Module 1 and that was due by the end of that week.
“You could work at your own pace, but there was also online lectures,” he said. “And then everything else was done through online textbooks.”
Sharkey received his high school diploma from the Insight School of Kansas and then played a third season for Topeka, before he was recruited to play hockey at UWSP by head coach Chris Brooks.
“Coach Brooks is a guy that tells you straight up what he thinks and what he expects from you, and you have to earn everything here, and so that whole part from a hockey standpoint was exactly what I was looking for,” said Sharkey. “I came up and visited the school and saw the hockey standpoint of it, and then also saw the school standpoint in May before I started my freshman year.
“And coming up here just felt right,” he said. “So it was an easy choice to come here.”
As a freshman for the Pointers, Sharkey was an Honorable Mention All-Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WIAC) selection in 2013-14 and finished second in the conference in goals, as he helped the Pointers advance to the NCAA Division III National Championship Game and finished as the National Runner-up.
He earned First Team All-WIAC honors as a sophomore and was second in the conference in points as UWSP finished as the National Runner-up for the second year in a row, while last season as a junior he earned Honorable Mention All-WIAC and was second on the Pointers in scoring and seventh in Division III with 19 goals.
He capped his junior season with a goal and two assists in the National Championship Game, as UWSP won 5-1 over St. Norbert to claim the NCAA Division III National Title.
“It’s been special,” said Sharkey. “Not too many people are fortunate enough to say that they played in a National Title Game, and we were fortunate enough to play in three in a row and win it last year.
“I’ve been very fortunate to have a really good group of guys all four years here,” he said.
A team captain as a senior this season, Sharkey was named First Team All-WIAC after he led the conference in assists and was fifth in scoring, while he helped the second-ranked Pointers reach the NCAA Tournament for the fourth year in a row.
In the NCAA Quarterfinals against sixth-ranked Adrian (Mich.) Saturday, March 18, Sharkey had a goal with 20 seconds left in the second period to tie the score at 3-3.
However, Adrian scored a pair of goals in the opening 10 minutes of the third period and added an empty-net goal to win 6-3 and end UWSP’s run of three consecutive trips to the National Championship Game, as the Pointers finished with a 21-5-3 record and Sharkey saw his college career come to a close.
Less than a week later, Sharkey signed with Huntsville, as he will be one of 12 former UWSP players currently playing professionally in either the SPHL or East Coast Hockey League.
A business major with a coaching minor, Sharkey said that he wants to get into coaching after his playing days are done, and that he loved his four years at UWSP.
“Playing here in front of our home fans, it’s been awesome,” said Sharkey. “It’s an unbelievable environment, the students are great, the local fan support’s great.
“It’s just one of those things that, when it’s all said and done, you’re really going to miss coming out on the ice and hearing the band and the students and everybody go crazy,” he said. “We’re a pretty lucky school, a lot of schools don’t get that support, and we’re fortunate enough to be one of those.”