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I get amused when parents that never played much or high school heroes talk about how bad it is to play NCAA D3 in college somewhere. Similar to teen parents saying why bother if they're not the 1% in the USHL or playing top line at an expensive prep school.
The fact is that college hockey, D3 included, is stronger than it has ever been. Are some divisions better, sure. But having played at a good D3 school in the 80s I can tell you half my then very good team would be cut now. So if you are trying to be smart with your money and keep playing a good level, state schools across the country can be a great option.
Playing Tier 3 juniors after HS is no different than taking a gap year backpacking in some commie country in Asia or Europe. Or even worse, Australia or New Zealand.
Subscribe to National Geographic, skate with the boys and enjoy western civilization.
At some point you have to put the toys away.