This past week, 20-year-old Kyle Bettens announced his commitment to the NCAA’s Division I University of Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs. Currently suiting up in his second season of USHL play, the 6-foot-4, 215-pound forward couldn’t be happier with the way things worked out.
“UMD was always a dream school of mine,” Bettens told Game On. “As a young kid you dream of going to schools like UMD. Their winning culture and top coaches really excite me, which will help me grow – both my game and as a person. The UMD facility is top of the world and the fans are everything you want when playing college hockey; it was basically everything I wanted both when I was young and now.”
Currently sitting at three goals and five points through 13 games with the Youngstown Phantoms, the Winnipeg product amassed nine goals and 29 points in 52 games for the Omaha Lancers in his first season of play within the USHL last year.
“The past year in the USHL has been a really good stepping stone for me and my future,” Bettens said. “It is by far the best junior league in the world, and with all the top talent it has pushed me to become a better player. With all the great coaches I’ve had and teammates you make you really build such great life relationship with these people.”
Having recently moved south to the United States from Manitoba, Bettens always had his eye on an American post-secondary education. Finding the perfect place to play, however, took a bit of negotiating and certainly some luck.
“I had a lot of interest from schools and lot of offers but I wanted to get my game to the top before I was going to make a decision,” Bettens said of his decision-making process. “I was talking with UMD for a bit, so when the chance came to play for them it was basically a no-brainer for me.”
In order to land his spot in the USHL, Bettens worked his way through Manitoba’s U-15 and U-18 AAA leagues, putting up magical numbers with both the Winnipeg Warriors and Winnipeg Wild, before joining the Manitoba Junior Hockey League’s Steinbach Pistons.
With Steinbach, Bettens operated a point-per-game rate through two regular and playoff seasons, punching his ticket to further USA hockey endeavours. He produced 33 goals, 103 points and 42 penalty minutes in 106 total games over his MJHL career.
“Playing in the MJHL was huge for me as a young player,” he reflected. “I was very fortunate to play under Paul Dyck and with the great organization of Steinbach. I had a lot to learn over the years, but having great teammates and coaches who pushed me each and every day is why I succeeded in the MJHL.”
Clearly the time spent within Manitoba’s top junior league left a great impression on the 2o-year-old.
“An important lesson that I learned from the MJHL is to never stop believing in yourself,” Bettens said. “Always push yourself and keep moving forward; there’s always a path for each player to succeed, but you have to come to work and want it each and everyday.”