By Matt Stefano
The Soo Thunderbirds have announced today that forward Andrew Malek has committed to the Concordia University Wisconsin Falcons in NCAA Division 3 hockey for the 2021-2022 season.
Malek, who is a 2000-birth-year forward, began his NOJHL career with the Blind River Beavers in 2019, before ending his NOJHL career with the Soo Thunderbirds in 2021.
“I’m extremely happy with my decision to commit to Concordia University Wisconsin,” said Malek. “I feel like it will be a great fit for me both in the classroom and on the ice. I had a chance to visit the campus last week and it had everything I could ask for and then some.”
Corncadia University Wisconsin, which is located in Mequon, Wisconsin, is also just 27 minutes away from Malek’s hometown of Milwaukee.
“I chose Corncadia because they not only have a great hockey program, but they also have the classes I was hoping to take, not to mention it is close to my house which is nice for my family,” said Malek.
Malek, who is from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, began his NOJHL career with the Blind River Beavers in the 2019-2020 season, where he scored 16 times and set up 9 others in 45 games played.
That season, Malek also helped lead the Beavers to their best regular season in franchise history as they set new team records for most wins (37) and most points (78) in a regular season.
“I have nothing but great memories from my first season in Blind River,” said the Milkwaukee native. “A couple of my favourite memories were shutting out Hearst and beating Powassan 9-0 at home. Unfortunately another memory was being in the locker room before game 1 of the playoffs and coach Brick coming in and saying the game (eventually season) was cancelled due to COVID.”
Malek, who just graduated from the NOJHL this past season, ended his junior hockey career in a Soo Thunderbirds uniform after being released by the Blind River Beavers just 7 games into the season.
“At first I was a little nervous coming to the Soo in the middle of the season, but both the coaching staff and players were very welcoming and I felt like I had been there since day 1,” said Malek.
After beginning the season with 2 goals and 1 assist in 7 games with Beavers, Malek then scored 3 goals and 6 points in 13 games as a member of the Thunderbirds.
“My new teammates were great and they made me feel like I fit in both on and off the ice,” said Malek. “I feel like I’ve made lifelong friends during my short time in the Soo.”
With the Soo and Blind River being the only teams left in the NOJHL’s West Division during the month of March, the clubs then played a seven-game series against each other, which was for the COVID Cup.
Malek and the Thunderbirds were then crowned COVID Cup champions after winning the seven-game series against his former team (Blind River Beavers).
“I’m not going to lie and say I wasn’t excited about beating my old team. It definitely felt good, especially scoring in game 6 against them. But I have nothing but respect for both organizations (Blind River & the Soo) because they both helped me get where I am today,” said Malek.
Malek, who will be playing hockey at Concordia University Wisconsin starting this fall, will also be taking the Horticulture program while going to school there.
“I’m choosing to take Horticulture because I’ve always enjoyed working with my hands, especially with landscaping. Also, I’m going to be following in my late father’s footsteps because he introduced me to this type of work a long time ago,” said Malek.
(Photo of Andrew Malek credit to Bob Davies)