University City

Johnson and Wales hockey players shine

It's difficult to determine which is more special: a couple of Johnson and Wales hockey players among national statistical leaders, or the circumstances that brought them to Charlotte.

Last year, Cam Heath and Michael Morgan were attending community colleges up North, playing recreational hockey. Now they are the leading scorers on the Wildcat team and they're two of the top scoring club-level players in the nation.

Through 15 games, Heath had 32 goals and 24 assists for 56 points, ranking him in the top 20 among all Division III (the lowest of three divisions) club players. His 12 power play goals were tops in the country, in a division consisting of more than 125 teams.

In the same category, Morgan's 10 power play goals had him tied for third. What is most impressive is that Heath's and Morgan's numbers have come in fewer games than many of the players.

Morgan, a 23-year old freshman, grew up in a military family that eventually settled in Kalamazoo, Mi. - a state 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 more interested in cooking than geology. When the hotel's chef, a North Carolina native, told him about Johnson and Wales, Morgan was interested.

He found that Charlotte and the Providence, R.I., campuses had hockey teams but the warm weather drew him South.

Morgan plays forward and defenseman.

"There are a lot of guys on the team doing great things," Morgan said. "Everyone has a role to play. Cam and I fit the goal column as well as a couple other guys. We have a good group of 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.

Cam Heath had taken classes at New Hampshire Technical Institute that he could apply to his Johnson and Wales major: Sports Entertainment Events Management.

"It's awesome," said Heath. "I couldn't imagine this coming out of high school. When I knew we were all coming down (to Charlotte), I was excited to get to play with these guys again."

Johnson and Wales hockey coach Christopher Plano welcomed them.

The Wildcats have gotten a huge offensive boost from Morgan and Heath. Plano says school administration, students, and opponents are starting to take notice.

"Hopefully, it makes the program look good," Plano said. "And maybe opens the eyes of some prospective players down the road."

Johnson and Wales plays in the Blue Ridge Hockey Conference, a high-scoring league, and the Wildcats have proven they belong.

Included in this year's onslaught have been six-goal games by Morgan (against the College of Charleston in November) and Cam Heath (Roanoke, October).

The team's benchmark this year was an early-season 8-7 win against the cross-city rival UNC Charlotte.

The rematch is set for noon Sunday, Feb. 12 at Time Warner Cable Arena.