Ex-Knights skate off to college teams

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Jim Franz/Beloit Daily News Former Beloit Memorial hockey player Riley Jensen, right, will play for UW-Stout.

BELOIT - It's been a few years since they all wore the purple and white uniforms of Beloit Memorial's Purple Knights, but the gang is still skating together.

At least for the summer anyway.

Step-brothers Riley Jensen and Brady Wright and cousin Tyler Jensen are all training at the Janesville Ice Center with Janesville Jets Coach Lennie Childs.

Riley was the last of the trio to announce where he would attend college and continue to play hockey. He recently selected the UW-Stout Division III hockey program as his next place to call home.

"It's been a very good Division III program in the past and they're up-and-coming again," Riley said. "I'm really excited to get started."

Last December, Tyler Jensen announced he would play the 2019-20 season with Lawrence University's D-III team. Wright already played last season for the UW-Oshkosh club team while another ex-Knight, Brayden Cooper, will also go the club route with the Northern Illinois University Huskies team.

They helped the Knights have a winning 12-11-1 season back in 2016-17, but graduation broke up the band as they found junior hockey teams to play for.

For Riley, his 2018-19 season was with the Soo Eagles in the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League. In 55 games the 5-foot-10, 170-pounder scored 15 goals and posted 25 assists.

"Playing in Michigan was a great step for me," he said. "I think it really prepared me for this."

He joins a team that was 13-12-2 last season, up from 7-16-3 the year before. The Blue Devils' roster includes players from Sweden, Finland, Russia, Quebec and Alaska.

"The coach has been there awhile and had a lot of success," Riley said. "They pack their rink. They play in the WIAC (Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference), which is a very strong league."

Riley will rejoin another Soo player, Koby Keller, at Stout. He won't see either Wright or Cooper on the ice again since they're playing club hockey, but skating against his cousin Tyler is a distinct possibility.

"Stout played Lawrence this past season in a non-conference game," he said. "They don't play this upcoming season, but I'm sure they'll play each other in the future."

Prolific scorer Tyler Jensen should help a Lawrence team that went 5-18-2 overall last season and 3-13-2 in the All-Northern Collegiate Hockey Association. As a senior for the Knights, he scored 62 points (27 goals, 35 assists). He played for the Skipjacks Hockey Club in York, Pa., the following season and for the Minnesota Moose in Blaine, Minn., last season.

The Moose, who play in the U.S. Premier Hockey League (USPHL), are at the Tier 3 level, one below the Janesville Jets.

"It's a very competitive league and this division is known for being physical as well as skilled," he said.

Lawrence scouted him during a showcase tournament in Chicago. Jensen said playing for the Vikings was a no-brainer.

"I want to major in economics and the economics program there is very strong," he said. "The team plays in a really good division. I like their coaching staff and they have a solid young team. I'm really looking forward to going there and starting my college career."

Wright is already a year into college at UW-Oshkosh. The Titans club team plays in the Northern Collegiate Hockey League and he earned Second Team on the All-Rookie squad in the conference.

Cooper, a Clinton native, finished out a season with the Wisconsin Dells Ducks in the U.S. Premier Hockey League (USPHL). The 6-foot, 170-pound defenseman joins an NIU club team which has been in existence since 1965. The Huskies are stepping up in competition next season, from American Collegiate Hockey Association D-III to the D-1 level. They'll join a brand new seven-team Midwest College Hockey Conference.

In announcing Cooper's commitment to NIU, head coach Mike Rucinski said, "Brayden is a great skater who reads the situation really well. He has a very good skill set and is an overall solid defenseman."

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