Climbing the ladder

Fleckenstein fulfills dream on ice, for country

Submitted Photo Pictured is Fredonia native, Cody Fleckenstein playing for the Corpus Christi Ice Rays during what proved to be his breakout season.

Fredonia native, Cody Fleckenstein, has taken the next big step in his hockey career. The former standout at Nichols School in Amherst has moved along the junior hockey circuit. He began in the United States Hockey League (USHL) with the Omaha Lancers. He then ranked up to the North American Hockey League (NAHL) — and now — to the United States Military Academy at West Point to play Division 1 hockey as an Army Black Knight.

Coming from the NAHL, a transitional league that has featured NHL greats such as former Buffalo Sabres’ goalie Ryan Miller, Fleckenstein dominated playing for the Corpus Christi Ice Rays in what was a breakout year in his inaugural season.

Fleckenstein won the Ice Ray’s Defenseman of the Year. He recorded 32 points and tied a franchise record for goals (13) by a defenseman in a regular season. A playoff goal made him the leading goal-scoring defenseman in the Ice Ray’s history. He was also ranked in the top-20 defensemen in the NAHL and fourth in goals among defensemen. He was also third in shot attempts and second in game-winning goals among NAHL defensemen.

According to Corpus Cristi’s coach, Brad Flynn, it was Fleckenstein’s character, not his record-breaking numbers, that impressed him the most.

“I just think that Cody has an extremely high character on and off the ice as a person,” he said. “His attention to detail and his work ethic was second to none on our team. I believe that’s a big contributor to him getting to play at the D-1 level, with still a year of junior eligibility remaining.”

Players coming out of the NAHL look to continue their careers. Some only go as far as Division III, others try and make it further than that — some even go pro. For Fleckenstein, the NAHL has helped him realize a dream in going to West Point to play for Army.

“It’s the perfect situation for Cody,” said Flynn. “For us … it’s about finding the perfect school and hockey situation for each guy. Cody has a long military history with his family and he’s very patriotic and takes a lot of pride in that. … It’s almost a perfect storm so to speak. That the hockey team, the academic and military side of it could all come together and be a great situation for him — to continue to develop as a player and grow as a person and a leader in the community.”

The Army Black Knights have even more depth on the defensive front with the addition of Fleckenstein.

“He adds a lot of depth,” Army associate coach Zach McKelvie began. “We have a very strong defensive core on our team. … We see him as a stable guy that can play the power play, penalty kill, eat a lot of minutes and add to our lineup every single night.”

McKelvie was one of Army’s representatives that scouted Fleckenstein and helped bring him to West Point and he knows exactly what type of talent and potential he’s getting.

“As a hockey player — (what’s best is) his head for the game,” McKelvie said. “He made really good decisions; he was always in the right spot at the right time with pretty good skating. He’s just a really solid, all-around defenseman. … He’s got some offensive potential too. He’s got good vision and he’s able to make passes pretty well on the power play. He’s got a pretty good shot, too. He’s more than just a stay-at-home defenseman. He’s a 200-foot defenseman that can make plays and really add a lot to you defensive core.”

Should Fleckenstein continue to improve, there’s no question that he’ll eventually play a big roll, or even become a leader for the Black Knights.

“He’s going to play a pretty big roll on our team,” McKelvie said of Fleckenstein’s future at West Point.

Army finished 18-14-5 last season. Their season came to an end at the hands of Air Force, losing 1-0 in the Atlantic Hockey Conference semifinals. This year, Army begins their season on Oct. 6 on the road against the AIC Yellow Jackets in Springfield, Ma. With Fleckenstein’s help, perhaps Army can win more games and make a push to earn a birth in the NCAA tournament.

All that being said, Fleckenstein has earned his position and is living out his dream playing at West Point.