Insight, News, and Opinion by Nick Abramo
  • January 19, 2022
Saint Louis School Student Kawena Lee Receives A Scholarship To Play Inline Hockey For Bethel University

When a Saint Louis student gets a scholarship to play a sport in college it’s usually football.

That’s what makes this college scholarship unusual. Kawena Lee, a Saint Louis senior, is going to play for the Bethel University inline hockey team in McKenzie, Tennessee.

He signed his letter of intent to play for the Wildcats over the Christmas break.

Kawena Lee will graduate from Saint Louis School in May before going to Bethel University in Tennessee to play inline hockey.

Lee has been a standout hockey player almost since he started the sport in the 8-and-under division at Kapolei Inline Hockey Arenas. Through the years he’s had a lot of experience playing in mainland tournaments and has since risen to the top adult division at KIHA.

Bedrock Sports Hawaii caught up with Lee on the phone Monday just before he was about to go into his yard to shoot pucks.

“I shoot every day,” Lee said. “But I realized I’ve got to tone it down. Sometimes it’s unnecessary to do it for two-plus hours, ripping pucks. I get callouses and blisters and end up getting a problem in my forearm and elbow.”

Practice, practice, practice is on Lee’s mind all the time, but it was a truly difficult time for him during 2020 when KIHA was closed due to COVID-19. On top of that, his grandfather Walter Kanaelehua Hussey passed away in 2018, something that Kawena took pretty hard, according to his mom, Nicole.

“That was one of the reasons Kawena went to Saint Louis,” Nicole said. “His Papa was Saint Louis Class of 1959.”

One of Kawena Lee’s Christmas presents — signing his letter of intent.

Lee remembers the first time his parents took him to see a game at KIHA one Saturday morning when he was in third or fourth grade. Two of the standout youth players at the time, Preston Suekawa and Ethan Matsuoka, were among those on the IceCourt (plastic surface similar to SportCourt).

“It looked really fun and so I went to KIHA’s learn to skate program and I loved it,” he said. “By the second week, I got my feet under myself and got the hang of it. Ever since then, I’ve just loved it.”

Lee had already experienced youth soccer and baseball, so he was accustomed to team sports, and he stuck with soccer until about his freshman year at Saint Louis. That’s when he decided to concentrate on hockey.

A trip was to Wisconsin for a collegiate inline hockey camp along with Kyler Okamoto, a friend from KIHA, was in the works for the summer of 2020, but it was cancelled due to the coronavirus.

Instead, Lee and Okamoto waited until the summer of 2021 to attend that camp.

“That was such a great camp, such a fun time,” Lee said. “The main reason I had so much fun was the competition level. Everyone was highly skilled and the intensity level was always high. I learned the intensity of the game, the work ethic. Everyone was supporting. each other, the players, the coaches, the college coaches. It was a great set-up and we stayed in a school dorm.”

At that camp, college coaches from Maryville University (St. Louis), Bethel, Lindenwood (Saint Charles, Missouri) and Arizona State go to know more about the ability and personalities of potential future players.

Eventually, a scholarship from coach Ryne Potts of the Wildcats came Lee’s way, and after some time mulling it over, he decided he was going to wear the purple and white of Bethel, which competes in the National Collegiate Roller Hockey Association.

In the 2011-12 season, Bethel won the Division I national championship.

“We went to the campus and I had a couple of practices and stuff, met some of the guys on the team,” Lee said. “It was kind of like a recruitment camp and I talked to some of the others who committed there.”

And this Saint Louis kid who will graduate high school in May has at least three goals, saying:

>> 1.  “I just want to get better, improve my skills and make some good relationships with the boys and the coaches and hopefully win some championships.”

>> 2. “I want to grow the game and see if I can help others get involved in hockey who might not otherwise know about the sport.”

And his mom Nicole added:

>> 3. “He’s not leaving college without a degree.”

In the video below, Lee scores a goal on a give-and-go pass from Okamoto in a KIHA Division II game.

 

Another player who honed his skills at KIHA, Jaden Nahoi-Baricar, a Kapolei High graduate, plays in the NCRHA as a sophomore on Arizona State’s Division I squad. His season is about to heat up.

Sohn, Kawena’s dad, and Nicole Lee also have three daughters — Anela, Mehana and Sanoe. The family lives in Kapolei.

Also, one of Kawena’s uncles is Hiram de Fries, a former Punahou and Colorado State football player who was an assistant on the staff of the Mater Dei High School football team when eventual Heisman Trophy winner Matt Leinart and eventual University of Hawaii star Colt Brennan played there. De Fries also served as an administrative assistant under coach Urban Meyer for the University of Florida, Ohio State University, and the University of Utah football teams.

If any youth (boys and girls) or adults reading this want to play inline hockey, contact KIHA owner Richard Pentecost (372-9270, RichardPentecost57@hotmail.com) or hockey director Jami Yoder (717-471-3847, jamiyoder@yahoo.com). KIHA’s main telephone number is 682-5442.

KIHA has leagues for all youth divisions from 8-and-under to 16-and-under, for adults in six divisions from highly experienced to brand=new beginner, and a learn to skate program.

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Below is a list of Hawaii youth players who have moved to play or signed to play college, high school or junior ice or inline hockey. If you know anyone who should also be on this list or if something is not correct about the list, email Nick Abramo at nickabramo7@gmail.com.

Ice (NCAA Division I)
>> Linda Desruisseaux (Northeastern)

Ice (junior, various levels)
>> Caleb Campbell (unknown team)
>> Lance Hamilton (Elmira Junior Enforcers, Tier 3)
>> Thierry Nguepdjo (Eugene Thunder)
>> Zach Pamaylaon (Philadelphia Revolution, Tier 3)
>> Cydnee Somera (Boston Shamrocks, JWHL)
>> Trent Takeuchi (Eugene Thunder)
>> Stephen Vitek (team in Michigan, unknown)

Ice (NCAA Division III)
>> Grant Matsushita (Salve Regina)
>> Zach Pamaylaon (Bryn Athyn)
>> Andrew Vitek (Bethel College JV)
>> Spencer Zaha (Buffalo State)

Ice (club)
>> Lindsey Dymond (Colorado State)
>> Grant Matsushita (Pepperdine)
>> Cydnee Somera (Union College)

Inline (National Collegiate Roller Hockey Association)
>> Jason Asato (UNLV)
>> Ben Barros (Lindenwood)
>> Hannah Barros (Lindenwood)
>> Micah Chun (UNLV)
>> Linsdey Dymond (Colorado State)
>> Eric Fujikawa (Purdue)
>> Io Keehu (UNLV)
>> Emerson Lau (UNLV)
>> Kawena Lee (Bethel University)
>> Jaden Nahoi-Baricar (Arizona State)
>> Andy Oda (Maryland)
>> Matt Quesada (Lindenwood and Colorado State)
>> Keegan Sussman (Purdue)
>> Logan Sussman (UNLV)
>> Hans Suyderhoud (Saint Louis University JV)
>> Matt Suyderhoud (Saint Louis University JV and varsity)

Ice (high school boarding school)
>> Frank Orrell (Avon Old Farms)
>> Devon Wilson (Avon Old Farms)
>> Ryan Wilson (Avon Old Farms)

1 Comment

  • To many triumphs for the KIHA youth!

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