Jack and Ben Ivey. Photo courtesy of Lauren Corea and the Amarillo Wrangers
The Ivey brothers' tag team will continue for a third level of hockey.
Twins Ben and Jack Ivey, who played four seasons of AAA hockey for the Anaheim Jr. Ducks after playing for the San Diego Jr. Gulls, not only have been able to play junior hockey together, but earlier this year they accomplished the rare feat of committed to play Division I college hockey at Army West Point together. They are the 71st and 72nd Jr. Ducks to make a Division I commitment.
"We hoped it could happen, but it was a stretch, especially after we didn't have a lot of interest after 16s," Ben said. "It's difficult to find two forward spots because college rosters are so tight.
"We're grateful Army wanted to bring us both in."
The Iveys again will play this season for the Amarillo Wranglers of the North American Hockey League. Ben will serve as the team's captain.
The commitment to a U.S. service academy carries some added weight because it will require at least a five-year military commitment upon graduation. That was a serious consideration, the brothers said.
"We were pretty uneasy at first about the military commitment," Ben said. "However, we have four members of our (extended) family who have served in the Army (including both grandfathers). We talked it over with our parents (Lee and Dana) and ultimately they signed off. The more we talked about it, the more exciting it was."
Added Jack, "When we went on our visit, we had no idea of the magnitude of the place. The alumni programs and seeing the campus sold it. It was so beautiful. It looked like castles."
The U.S. Military Academy, as West Point is formally known, opened in 1802, making it America's oldest military academy.
Although there could be opportunities to play pro hockey after college, this was a decision Ben and Jack made with the longer game in mind.
"It's more about the academics than anything," Ben said. "You're setting yourself up for life."
The brothers, who are 2004 birth years, played for the Jr. Ducks from 13AAA through 16AAA and relished the experience.
"It was a lot of fun and we had great coaches," Ben said.
They played for Scott Niedermayer and Alex Vasilevsky at 13AAA, David Walker at 14 and 15AAA and Alex Kim at 16AAA. They were on teams that qualified for the USA Hockey Nationals three times.
"Our 16U year we grew the most as players," Jack said. "Coach Kim worked with us a lot on play in the offensive zone, protecting pucks in the O zone and transitioning from zone to zone.
"Those are all skills that prepared us for junior hockey."
The Iveys signed with Wenatchee, then of the British Columbia Hockey League, at 16. After one season, they relocated from Washington state to Amarillo, Texas.
"We were very fortunate to come to Amarillo together," Ben said.
Their games took off during 2022-23. Ben had 46 points and 18 goals in 60 regular-season games, while Jack chipped in 27 points, including 12 goals, while also playing in every game. Those were massive leaps from their production in Wenatchee (10 and 8 points, respectively), and the duo will be counted on to play bigger roles this coming season.
At this time last year, they weren't sure at what level hockey would continue beyond juniors. They had casual conversations with a few D-I schools but nothing concrete emerged.
An Army coach came to Amarillo to scout defenseman Pierce Patterson and came away intrigued by the Iveys' combination of skill and size (Ben is 6-foot-4 and Jack is 6-3). All three Wranglers went on a recruiting trip, and all three ultimately committed to the Black Knights.
When they join the Atlantic Hockey program for the 2024-25 school year they'll see a familiar face or two in the league. Former Jr. Ducks teammate Kyle Isenberg is an Air Force commit. The defenseman, who will play in the same NAHL division as the Iveys this season as a member of Lone Star, said Army is getting a cross-section of skills with the brothers.
"Ben is more of the shooter, while Jack is the set-up man," Isenberg said. "They're two really big bodies who are hard to defend because they have such long reaches. Both are pretty solid defensively."
Their playing styles aren't the only contrast.
"Ben is the more vocal of the two, while Jack likes to lead by example," Isenberg added.
All three played in a summer 3-on-3 league in Southern California. Given the intense nature of service academy rivalries, was there any trash talk exchanged?
"Very little," Isenberg said, with a chuckle. "We're saving it for the next four years."