It's difficult to determine which is more special: a couple of Johnson & Wales hockey players among national statistical leaders, or the circumstances that brought them to Charlotte.
Last year, Cam Heath and Michael Morgan were attending northern community colleges, playing recreational hockey. Now they are the leading scorers on the Wildcat team and two of the top scoring club-level players in the nation. This year the team is 7-7-1.
Through 15 games, Heath had 32 goals and 24 assists for 56 points, ranking him in the top 20 among all Division III club players. His 12 power-play goals were tops in the country, in a division of more than 125 teams.
In the same category, Morgan's 10 power-play goals had him tied for third. Heath's and Morgan's numbers have come in considerably fewer games than many other players.
Morgan, a 23-year-old freshman, grew up in a transient military family that eventually settled in Kalamazoo, Mich., where high school hockey rivals football, he says. Morgan climbed the ranks of junior hockey and considered playing overseas after high school. Instead, he stuck around Kalamazoo, where he worked as a hotel cook and attended Kalamazoo Valley Community College. He studied geology but became interested in cooking. When the hotel chef, a North Carolina native, told him about Johnson & Wales, Morgan took action.
He found that Charlotte and the Providence, R.I., campuses had hockey teams, but warm temperatures drew him south. Morgan plays forward and defenseman.
"There are a lot of guys on the team doing great things," Morgan said. "Cam and I fit the goal column as well as a couple other guys."
Also a life-long hockey player, Heath, 20, played on teams in New Hampshire with his younger brother Tanner, 19, and his best buddy Matt Famiglietti. When they graduated high school, it looked like their hockey lives might go separate ways. But they came south.
Heath had taken classes at New Hampshire Technical Institute that he could apply to his Johnson & Wales major: sports entertainment events management.
Johnson & Wales hockey coach Christopher Plano welcomed them. Plano says administration, students and opponents also are starting to notice.
The team will play cross-city rival UNC Charlotte Feb. 12 at noon at Time Warner Cable Arena.