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Nope it hasn't changed, that's correct. Hockey is the only sport with that crazy grace period though, which doesn't make sense considering the very high level of competition in other NCAA sports like basketball and football.
Men’s Ice Hockey
D1: 21st birthday
D2: 3 years
I enlisted in the Army straight out of HS and didn't start college until I was 24 and yes I played a sport in college. Heck Chris Weinke was 28 when he won the Heisman trophy. I don't understand, outside of the cesspool that is Tier-III juniors, why you are so upset at the age a kid is entering college. It's a choice, if it's not right for your family situation or your son, you just don't do it.
If Worchester State, Framingham State, Franklin Pierce, Suffix, and many other DII and DIII schools are not for your hockey player look at ACHA - Most ACHA higher division schools will beat many of the small New England DII & DIII schools.
Juniors is not necessary for D3. My son plays D3 at a NESCAC school and didn’t play juniors. Many will go to chase the D1 dream though.
D3 coaches are clowns who are empowered by desperate players. Sad truth is when junior players take a step back and visit an actual nice college, why the hell would anyone want to go to fitchburg? This will never happen and until then the power trip continues
The numbers of kids coming right out of high school to D3 schools could increase if people realistically listened to what D1 coaches do or do not say to them about the player. If it is anything less than, do a year of juniors and if we see x, y and z we will take him next year, actively seek D3 opportunities. D3 coaches will also not chase you down if you are intent on pursuing the D1 dream. They will wait until reality hits home. That is why those 03 and 04 numbers direct to D3 exist the way they are. If you are coming out of prep this year with nothing concrete, you should actively be reaching out to D3 schools. If you have good grades, NESCAC coaches are making decisions right now.
While its possible to be a rostered player without playing junior, you have to remember in your decision there's a difference between being rostered and actually playing. Being in the stands watching getting spot games the first year or so sucks.
Not all D3 schools play in dumpy state rinks dummy! Elmira, Oswego, Plattsburgh-Great rinks, great fans, great teams and great hockey...not D1, no, but not too shabby either..