GROTON -- On a chilly, January afternoon, as the Crusaders were in the dressing room getting ready for an early-season Roy Conference showdown with Hudson, two men in UMass jackets stood outside with clipboards in their hands.
They were there to watch Groton-Dunstable standout forward Adam Kmetz. But, the Minutemen scouts ended up getting a twofer, when they discovered a lanky senior defenseman in Allan Haynes.
Sure, the Minutemen club team scooped up Kmetz and Haynes, but according to Crusaders head coach Phil Rowley, they were not the only players UMass had its crosshairs fixed on.
"The coach told me that he would take every senior 'you' have coming out of school," said a smiling Rowley. "That was nice to hear. It was a nice feeling and I think all of the kids could have definitely played club hockey there."
Rumor has it that another Crusaders standout might be trying out for the team, forward Bradley Zadrozny has also expressed interest in playing.
"He was a last-minute decision," said Haynes on Zadrozny's decision to attend UMass. "I know Adam for a fact is going to play, but I am not sure if Brad has made his decision on if he wants to play yet."
Haynes tallied three goals for the Crusaders in 2013, but the captain's wealth to his team won't be found in the box score, it is found on the ice. Haynes is a physical player at six-foot-one, 185 pounds, but he will likely pack on size after heading to college at UMass.
"Allan will certainly be able to hold his own and contribute very much, probably right away," said Rowley. "I know Adam will also do a great job up there, too. I think he (Allan) could fill out a bit more, but kids usually do when they get to college."
Haynes and Kmetz got a taste for what a day at UMass practice is like when they partook in a session this past winter.
"Me and Adam were kind of scared going into it; we didn't know what to expect," Haynes said. "We didn't know if it was going to be faster or slower than what we were used to.
"When we got there, we both sat next to each other in the locker room and didn't talk too much. But, when we got out there, I remember I was pretty nervous. We fit right in there. It wasn't anything way above our heads."
The UMass Minutemen club program enjoyed a pretty successful 2012-2013 campaign, finishing the year with an overall record of 15-7-2. The Minuteman are members of the American Collegiate Hockey Association.
"The hockey program is pretty good there," said Haynes. "It's going to be competitive. It is not going to be like just going out there to shoot pucks. It is gonna be actually like another season."
UMass carries roughly 30 kids on its roster, which according to Haynes, will result in four or five healthy scratches each game.
"I am hoping I won't be one of those healthy scratches," said Haynes. "I'm hoping I will be dressing for every game. As a freshman, I would expect to have to pay my dues on the fourth line, but you never know. Hopefully for the defense, I will get to play first or second line at one point during my freshman year. "
Club hockey is often regarded as a feeder program to the varsity team, but while the odds of getting called up to the big squad are slim, it's are not out of the realm of possibility.
"I have heard stories of a couple of kids from UMaine who got called up to play on the practice team with the varsity," said Haynes. "That would be pretty cool. It's kind of unlikely, I think, but who knows. It's possible."
In the fall, Haynes will be enrolled full-time as a business major. If the Groton-Dunstable trio of Haynes, Kmetz and Zadrozny all do end up playing club hockey at UMass, you know that they will bring a winning attitude. After all, they did lead the Crusaders to its first Division 3A state hockey title.