Former Jr. Ducks forward Colin Frank is playing for Dubuque of the USHL before heading to Connecticut. Photo courtesy of Stephan Gassman/Dubuque Fighting Saints
Defenseman Brendan Dunphy is playing for Langley of the BCHL before heading to Connecticut. Photo courtesy of the Langley Rivermen
Once teammates, Brendan Dunphy and Colin Frank will be reunited in the next few years in NCAA hockey after each committed to the University of Connecticut this fall.
The pair of 2006 birth years played the past two seasons for the Jr. Ducks 16U AAA team. Frank started playing hockey for the Jr. Ducks, while Dunphy played several seasons for the San Diego Jr. Gulls. They are the 75th and 76th players with ties to the Jr. Ducks to make Division I commitments.
"The '06 group has a lot of really good players," said Alex Kim, coach of the 16Us and the club's director of player personnel. "These are two really good kids who have worked very hard."
The duo are very different types of players. The 5-foot-8 Frank is a high-scoring forward, while the 6-6 Dunphy is a lockdown defenseman.
Each is playing regularly in his first season of junior hockey, a testament to their development while playing for the Jr. Ducks. Frank has five points in 10 games for Dubuque of the United States Hockey League, while Dunphy already has played in seven games for Langley of the British Columbia Hockey League.
Both players credited their time playing for the Jr. Ducks for aiding their development and preparing them for future steps such as junior and college hockey.
"There are a lot of older players in the USHL so you know it's not going to be a cakewalk," Frank said. "My skill development playing for Alex and Jeff Friesen helped me adjust to the league.
"I grew a lot playing for Alex, especially my stickhandling and my vision for creating offensive and defensive plays. Jeff helped my shot tremendously. He and Alex emphasized playing a 200-foot game, which has helped me this season."
Dunphy appreciated being able to tap into Kim's Division I and pro experience throughout his time with the club and since.
"Alex has been through it all. He helped me a lot on the ice but also with his advice off the ice whether about hockey or as a person," Dunphy said. "I'm more of a defensive guy but he prepares you for junior hockey.
"Some of the things he taught us in practices, some guys on my team are just now learning."
Dunphy and Frank join a third player from last season's team, defenseman Tanner Henricks (St. Cloud State), in preparing for the Division I ranks.
Frank's primary mission is scoring goals, and he did plenty of that for the Jr. Ducks, netting a team-high 66 among his 143 points during the 2022-23 season. He had 27 more and 85 playing as a 15U with the 16s.
"Colin is very explosive and can fire the puck," Kim said. "He's not one-dimensional, however. He's very coachable and competes hard."
Dunphy had plenty of reps against Frank in practices over the past three seasons and confirmed that his former - and future - teammate's abilities extend beyond lighting goal lamps.
"His release on his shot is unreal and he's super quick, so defending him isn't easy," Dunphy said. "You don't want to go into a corner with him. He's not going to blow you up, but he'll make you go in circles."
Although goal prevention is one of Dunphy's calling cards, it's not his only one, Frank said.
"For a guy his size, he's a great skater," Frank said. "He has great vision and he helped our breakouts. His stick handling is really good and he has a quick shot."
Like Frank, Dunphy was a coach's dream, Kim added.
"Brendan is very head savvy," Kim said. "He was very consistent with breakouts and always makes the smart play, the high-percentage play.
"He has a lot of potential because he's so big and has so much range that he puts to use on both sides of the puck."
Dunphy brought solid production to the 16s lineup as well, putting up 59 points (22 goals) in 85 games last season and 28 points in 81 games the season before.
Dunphy was the first of the two players that UConn began recruiting. The Huskies caught his eye as much for the school's off-ice benefits as the hockey opportunity.
"Better hockey schools sometimes tend to not take academics as seriously. Connecticut has a good balance," said Dunphy, who plans to major in economics or another business discipline. "They're a top-20 hockey school but the university is well respected.
"They offered me in August, but Colin committed before I did. It's cool that he's going there, too."
Frank's numbers drew plenty of suitors once colleges were allowed to speak with him in person. UConn emerged later than some other options.
"They reached out at National Camp over the summer," said Frank, who was on the U.S. U17 team. "My visit blew my dad and me away. They have great hockey facilities and a strong, up-and-coming program.
"I'm super pumped to see Brendan commit. He talked to them first, and hearing what he said about their program definitely had some influence."
In the next few seasons, UConn will have a decidedly Jr. Ducks feel to it.