Another Knight will be making the change from blue to black in the near future as Thomas Farrell made his commitment to Army official Thursday. The defenseman will head to West Point starting in the 2019-2020 season, joining the program at the NCAA DI level.
“I’m feeling a little better than good,” laughed Farrell shortly after making his commitment official. “Honestly, I went in there for a visit with an open mind. Ever since I was a little kid I’ve always looked up to the military. Now being a part of that, being a small part of that history and that family is a great honor.”
At 19, the right handed blue-liner has logged regular minutes atop the Knights defensive corps this season, picking up three goals and 22 assists in 55 games played.
“Thomas has been a staple for us this season,” said Knights head coach Tom Kowal. “We send him out there in all situations; power play, penalty kill, three-on-three, four-on-four, overtime, you name it, he’s out there. I can’t think of a better example than this past weekend. We were down to just four healthy defensemen for a three-game weekend. Thomas played a big part in helping us secure four out of six points, keeping us in the race for the #2 seed in our division. He logged a lot of minutes, and our confidence in him never wavered. We knew he had a high ceiling when we tendered him last year and he’s come in and exceeded our expectations.”
Farrell’s future team, the Army Black Knights, have built a proud history playing division one hockey dating back to 1903. Steered by head coach Brian Riley, the team and Army’s commitment to excellence caught Farrell’s eye.
“One thing I noticed when I stepped on campus while talking to the coaching staff and also the players there was that it was just an extremely dedicated and committed group of people,” he said. “I just saw it as a really great environment for me where I can excel and grow both on and off the ice with them. The leadership program there is awesome. It’s unlike anywhere else in the world. I’m very excited to say the least.”
Farrell will join current teammate and fellow defenseman Anthony Firriolo, who committed to Army earlier this season. The pair will begin their careers in the 2019-2020 season.
“I went on a visit there on Monday,” said Farrell. “I ended up going out with Anthony for lunch after practice on Tuesday. I kinda sat down with him and talked with him a little bit about the dedication and commitment after not only going to the school but also after the four years of education. There’s 17 branches of the military you can go into. It’s not just serving in the front lines. We talked about all the different programs, the student-to-faculty ratio which is awesome. It’s just a great environment.”
Farrell’s play stood out even as a tender pressed into duty last postseason when the Knights were depleted by injuries. As a regular in 2017-18, it didn’t take long for Farrell to establish himself as one of the league’s better defenders.
“I would consider myself a two-way defenseman,” he said about his game. “That’s how I believe I was scouted by Coach McKelvie, the defensive coach at Army. That’s what he was looking for and that’s a role I think I can fit into. With the Knights here in Wilkes-Barre I think I’ve been able to do a really good job playing defense first then also finding a way to get involved in the offense and doing well with that. Then off the ice, I would say that you’re just getting a kid that’s really put in the hours and the dedication to the sport. That’s what I’m all about, and I think I can bring that dedication and that commitment to the classroom as well. It’s just something I’m really looking forward to do.”
“Beyond just his talent, Thomas has been a regular starter for us due to his character on and off the ice,” said Kowal. “He works incredibly hard. Whether it’s practice or a game, he’s on the ice and then he goes right into the weight room. He’s constantly setting an example for the rest of our team to follow.”
Farrell’s performance in the first half of the year earned him a spot on the East Division’s top prospects team at the NAHL’s Top Prospects Tournament at the end of February.
“Hockey is a team sport,” he said. “That’s one of the most important things that you always gotta have in the back of your head. You can’t just do it all yourself. Anthony and I wouldn’t have these commitments right now if it wasn’t for our team we’re playing with every day on the ice, pushing us to the best of our ability. We’ve just been pushing each other to get as good as we can get and to get noticed. I think that the East Division has played a key role in that as well. This division is one of the fastest in the league. It’s had a key part in us getting noticed by West Point and getting me the chance to visit and figure out what the school is all about.”
As the the NAHL postseason draws near, Farrell’s commitment to school wont take away from his commitment to a Robertson Cup run. A three-game showdown with the Titans, beginning with two home games this weekend, could play a massive role in securing the Knights home-ice advantage heading into April’s tournament.
“We’re in a really tight race right now with the Titans for that home-ice advantage between the two and three seeds,” said Farrell. “The goal as of right now is to take it one step at a time. This weekend we’re trying to get a solid, at least two out of three against these guys. We want to really clinch that home-ice advantage so that we can go into the playoffs feeling good, with that home ice and take it control a little bit.”
Even with games still to play, perspective isn’t lost on Farrell or his coach.
“I want to thank Thomas for his contributions to the Knights at this point in his career,” said Kowal. “He’s been an asset as a player but more importantly as a teammate and person. Wherever he is next year, I know he’s got a bright future ahead.”
“I just want to shout out to my mom and dad and my sister Brooke,” said Farrell. “They’re the ones that I’ve been with my whole life. I love them, really a lot. I did it for them. They’re the ones that would get me up in the morning. They’re the ones I’d get to see every day and kind of inspired me to be the person I am today. Without them I don’t think I’d be having this conversation.”
The Knights congratulate Thomas on his commitment and thank him for all his hard work. The team has been made better by his drive, one that he brings with him everywhere he goes. The Black Knights are getting a good one.