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Missing Minnesota's outdoor rinks, New Mexico standout commits to a homecoming with St. Thomas

While missing his native Minnesota, New Mexico Ice Wolves center JD Metz likes to wake up without a minus sign on the thermometer. He will return to the cold county next season with St. Thomas.

New Mexico Ice Wolves center JD Metz (7) moved the puck past a challenge from an El Paso Rhinos defender during a NAHL game played outdoors on a community rink in Los Alamos, N.M., on Sunday, December 11, 2022.
Zach Price / New Mexico Ice Wolves

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Members of this season’s edition of the New Mexico Ice Wolves got a hockey experience they will never forget recently. In what one of them described as perfect conditions for outdoor hockey, in a stunningly scenic site in the mountains north of their home rink in Albuquerque, the NAHL team played a game versus the El Paso Rhinos on the community ice rink in Los Alamos, not far from the historic sites where scientists worked in secret to develop the world’s first atomic bomb.

About the only bummer for the roughly 400 hard-core Ice Wolves fans crowded among the towering pines ringing the rink on a sunny Sunday afternoon in December was the final score, with the Rhinos prevailing 3-2. Still, as much as he enjoys the sunshine of the southwest, the outdoor hockey experience clearly had Ice Wolves standout forward JD Metz thinking about home recently.

“I wanted to get away from home for juniors. I love Minnesota, but to get out and see what else is out there was big for me,” said Metz. “I do miss the winters a little bit. I miss the snow and I miss the outdoor rinks and stuff. But it is nice when you wake up and it’s not minus-20.”

JD Metz
Zach Price / New Mexico Ice Wolves

Home in Minnesota while the NAHL is on its holiday break, Metz decided that the State of Hockey is his future, and announced his commitment to play college hockey at St. Thomas starting in the fall of 2023. Blessed with some size (6-foot-1, 185 pounds), Metz is known as a versatile forward who is leading the Ice Wolves in assists with 18 in his first 23 games.

“He’s got some size, but JD has also got the intangibles that not a lot of guys want to bring — compete hard all the time, gritty, finishing checks, blocking shots, kind of the heart and sleeve of the game. That’s what JD represents,” said New Mexico coach Phil Fox. “He’s been our top center … He’s playing with some good players, distributing the puck well and sticking to his game. He didn’t change what he does, he’s just doing what he does well and has gotten rewarded for it.”


Before coming home to Minnesota for the holiday break and announcing his committment to St. Thomas for the 2023-24 season and beyond, New Mexico Ice Wolves top line center JD Metz had established himself as the NAHL team's assist leader.
Zach Price / New Mexico Ice Wolves

Metz, who turned 20 in October and is in his second season with the Ice Wolves, played defense on Mahtomedi’s 2020 state title team, but has been exclusively a forward post-preps. He is the child of two St. Thomas alumni parents, including his father, Ross, who played a few games in goal for the Tommies in the 1990s, when they were an NCAA Division III team.

“It’s close to home, and the program and the staff really seem nice,” said Metz, who hopes to study business. “It seemed like the obvious choice for me.”

He said chemistry has been the key to his good first half numbers.

“I’ve got great linemates who know how to put the puck in the net. We work really well together,” Metz said of his spot at center between William Howard (committed to Augustana) and Yusaku Ando, who is one of Japan’s top U20 players. “Everyone knows where we are on the ice and it’s working out.”

Looking forward a year, if you want to know where Metz is on a winter day off, look for a tall guy in purple checking out an outdoor rink in St. Paul, somewhere near the St. Thomas campus.

Jess Myers covers college hockey, as well as outdoors, general sports and travel, for The Rink Live and the Forum Communications family of publications. He came to FCC in 2018 after three decades of covering sports as a freelancer for a variety of publications, while working full time in politics and media relations. A native of Warroad, Minn. (the real Hockeytown USA), Myers has a degree in journalism/communications from the University of Minnesota Duluth. He lives in the Twin Cities. Contact Jess via email at jrmyers@forumcomm.com, or find him on Twitter via @JessRMyers. English speaker.
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