San Jose’s Lee joins Cape Cod team for deep USA Hockey Nationals run
Jeffrey Lee is confident in his Cape Cod Whalers organization that he can once again return and compete for a USA Hockey national championship.
The 2002-born defenseman from San Jose, and his Whalers’ 16U Tier I teammates, were just two games away from reaching the game played for all the marbles in Grand Rapids, Mich., and he knows that the Scituate, Mass.-based program has what it takes to get him back there as an 18U player.
“It’s a goal for a lot of players growing up,” said Lee. “It was a great team, a great group of guys. To go all the way to Nationals, that was probably one of my bigger moments of my career thus far.”
The Whalers, who play in the EHF Selects split-season division of the USPHL, earned their way to the Nationals by winning the Massachusetts state championship last November. Once at Nationals, they swept their way through the round-robin portion of the April 3-8 tournament, going 3-0 against the Anaheim Jr. Ducks, Detroit Honeybaked and the Yale (Conn.) Jr. Bulldogs.
In the end, it was the eventual national champion, the No. 3-ranked Pittsburgh Penguins Elite, that defeated the Whalers 2-0 in the April 6 quarterfinals and went on to win the title two days later against Yale.
“I had connections with the Whalers after I met Mr. Beniers (Whalers coach Bob Beniers) three years ago when I played for a Jr. Bruins tournament team with his son Matt Beniers,” said Lee. “Mr. Beniers ended up becoming the coach for the Whalers. We had that bond and connection and he wanted me to play for his team.”
At the time, and up through the 2017-18 season, Lee was playing for the San Jose Jr. Sharks. Moving more than 3,000 miles east was a major decision for Jeffrey and the Lee family. Luckily, they found Milton Academy, in Milton, Mass., a suburb of Boston. It was there he would continue his academic and athletic career after playing as a freshman for Archbishop Mitty High School in his home city.
“It was really a decision made by my parents and I,” said Lee. “Milton is strong in academics and my parents wanted me to go to a strong academic school. It was a tough decision, but the academics were there, and the hockey was there. It was always in the back of my mind that I would play for Cape Cod before and after.”
Lee said that even before this season with Cape Cod, he knew about half the kids on the team. Like them, he was given a lot of freedom to create on the ice.
“Our team doesn’t stress too much on systems – we’re allowed to do what we want with the puck,” said Lee. “In terms of transitioning, it all came naturally.
“That Whalers 16U team was probably the best I’ve played for. Every line was balanced, and I was comfortable passing the puck to anyone or receiving the puck from anyone.”
Lee started skating at the age of 4, starting with figure skating but switching to hockey after he saw the sport for the first time the next year.
Lee started out with the California Cougars, located in Cupertino, before moving on to play several years with the Sharp Shooters program and then the Jr. Sharks before going east.
“That’s a great organization with good players, good coaches, a good facility,” said Lee. “I was able to create connections and it stunk to leave the people I developed bonds with. For sure, playing for the Jr. Sharks had a great impact on me.”
Lee is looking forward to a bright future ahead, whatever it may hold. For now, he’s happy to be returning for what should be a huge 2019-20 season for him with Milton Academy and, of course, the Whalers.
Photo/Cape Cod Whalers
— Joshua Boyd/USPHL.com
(May 10, 2019)