By (Johnathan Anderson)

Junior defenseman Pierre Ouellette made a name for himself last season and took a huge step for the Alabama Hockey program when he was named the team’s first Division I All-American.

Ouellette was a force in his first year with Alabama. He led the nation in points by a defenseman [43], finished second in goals [19], tied for sixth in assists [24], tied for fifth in power-play goals [7], tied for third in power-play assists [13] and tied for first in game-winning goals [3].

His stats speak for themselves, but head coach Kyle Richards says a player like Ouellette gives so much more to the Crimson Tide than just plays on the ice.

“It brings notoriety to the program,” Richards said.

Alabama’s Hockey Club is still a relatively new addition to the ACHA Division I level, reaching promotion in 2015 where it competes as an independent without a conference. Bringing in players like Ouellette keep the club progressing in the right direction.

“Ouellette is a difference,” Richards said. “His shot can change the game whenever he gets it off.”

Before his breakout season at Alabama, Ouellette began his playing career at Ontario Hockey Academy under head coach Luke Beck.

Ouellette, alongside teammate Jeremy Hannah, helped the team win the Midget AAA OEMHL league championship while going 8-0 in the playoffs. Ouellette managed to record the most points of any player in those playoffs with 14 in just eight games.

The bond shared between Ouellette and Hannah, however, goes back much farther than their days at the Academy.

“We grew up together,” Hannah said. “We went to day care together when we were three years old. We’ve played hockey on almost every same team. He’s my best friend. I’ve just known him forever.”

This bond is ultimately what brought the two back together in Tuscaloosa.

After tenures playing junior hockey with the Cornwall Colts and the Hawkesbury Hawks, Ouellete began his collegiate career at Oswego State University in New York while Hannah found his path by way of Daniel Webster College in New Hampshire.

The two decided that they both were looking for a fresh start and when Hannah introduced Ouellette to the coaches here at Alabama, the two were finally reunited in Tuscaloosa. This move proved beneficial not only for their friendship, but for the future success of a program on the rise.

Following up such a hot start is never easy and Ouellete has since seen a bit of a drop in production this year. But Coach Richards sees the reduction as the result of a tougher schedule as well as Ouellette’s changing role within the team.

“Overall, his game has improved,” Richards said. “[He’s] playing a lot better defensively and picks his spots well on when to take charge and get forward.”

“I might not have as many points as I had last year,” Ouellette said. “But I think I’m playing a different game, a better role in this team.”

Ouellette is laser-focused on the ice. He’s known as a quarterback of the team by both his coaches and teammates. Ouellette’s game management and decision making are some of the first things people go to when asked about Ouellette’s major contributions. It seems that the qualities embodied by many quarterbacks hold true when compared to the mentality and poise he encompasses.

As a testament to the leadership he shows to the younger players on the team, Ouellette was named an Assistant Captain this season, demonstrating just how highly regarded he is by his teammates both on and off the ice.

“He’s just genuine,” Hannah said. “An honest guy.”

Playing alongside a player of that caliber can make all the difference at this level. Fellow defenseman James Benedetto, Ouellette’s defensive partner for the majority of this season, understands the advantage that Ouellette gives the Tide each time he takes the ice in crimson and white.

“He’s such a smart hockey player,” Benedetto said. ”He sees the game in such a different way than a lot of defensemen do. He’s able to read and react a lot easier than some players I’ve seen in this league. I think what’s great about him is he always makes a smart decision. He makes a good first pass. Always puts teammates in an area where they can be successful. I just try to balance off of him.”

While Ouellette has certainly made a name for himself on the ice, off it, he is known by his team for a far different reason.

“He’s quite the guitarist, and got quite the voice,” said Hannah.

Ouellette has a passion for music. His social media is plastered with clips demonstrating his talents, and his teammates note that they are normally treated to a private show when the guys get together.

“At a couple of the gatherings we’ve had he’ll break it out and play and it just gets everybody excited,” Benedetto said. “He loves bringing it out and showing off a bit and we as a team just love supporting him. That’s the great thing about this team.”

As the team looks forward to the remainder of the season. Ouellette has his sights set on the ultimate goal.

“We’re trying to get to the National Championship,” Ouellette said. “I expect greatness from this team.”

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Source:: The Crimson White Sports