Color of Hockey: Alderson is living his college dream at Castleton

William Douglas has been writing The Color of Hockey blog since 2012. Douglas joined NHL.com in 2019 and writes about people of color in sports. Today it features Mason Alderson, a forward from London, England who plays NCAA Division III hockey for Castleton University in Vermont.

Most kids growing up in London, England dream of playing professional football. Mason Alderson dreamed of playing college hockey in the United States.

“I remember watching the University of Michigan play Michigan State in an outdoor game,” Alderson said of the 2010 game at Michigan Stadium called “Big Chill at the Big House.” . “There were about 100,000 people there. I said to my dad, ‘I would love to play that day. He was like, ‘If that’s what you want to do, then that’s where we’re going.'”

Alderson is living his dream, albeit within decidedly smaller confines. The 21-year-old is a freshman forward for Castleton University, a 2,000-student NCAA Division III school in Vermont.

“I’m definitely happy to play college hockey,” he said. “I’m really excited.”

The same goes for Castleton coach Kyle Richards, who believes Alderson could become one of the hidden gems of NCAA men’s hockey this season.

“He’s a big, strong lad who’s 6-foot-3 and skates like he’s 5-foot-8,” Richards said. “Fly over there. Tons of skill, high level of competition. … I think he has the ability to be an All-America type player, to be an All-New England hockey conference [player]All-Rookie for sure.”

Alderson came to campus with an impressive international resume and hockey pedigree.

His father, Brian Biddulph, was a defender who played professionally in Britain from 1983 to 2000 and was one of the first black players to play for Britain in international competitions.

Alderson captained Great Britain at the 2019 IIHF World U18 Division I Group B tournament in Hungary, becoming the first black player to captain one of its national teams.

He helped Great Britain win the 2018 IIHF U-18 World Championship Group A tournament in Tallinn, Estonia with nine points (six goals, three assists) in five games. He was voted the tournament’s best striker.

Alderson had 28 points (13 goals, 15 assists) in 20 games in three IIHF Under-18 and Under-20 tournaments.

He came to the United States in 2018 to play for the Islanders Hockey Club, a Massachusetts team that competes in the National Collegiate Development Conference, then Berwick Academy in Maine and Hoosac School in New York.

His game caught the attention of the NextGen AAA Foundation, who invited him to play on an all-Black and Hispanic team at the 2020 Beantown Summer Classic tournament, and was coached by San Jose Sharks general manager Mike Grier and the retired New Jersey Devils defenseman Bryce. Salvador.

Alderson scored the game-winning goal in a 4-2 win that won the tournament championship for a team of mostly college and university players, including Jordan Harris, now Montreal Canadiens defenseman; Harvard University defender Christian Jimenez; American International College forward Reggie Millette; and defender Romeo Torain, Alderson’s Castleton teammate.

“It was a surreal moment,” Alderson said. “I don’t think you realize how lucky or meaningful it was before. You’re in the winner’s circle and you see your coach [Grier] and you’re like, ‘Wow, this guy has seen it all and done it all.’ And then you look at the guy on the other end of the bench [Salvador]and you’re like, ‘Wow, this guy has seen it all and done it all.'”

The euphoria of that experience faded in 2021 when Alderson tore his right Achilles tendon during training. Shortly after recovering from that surgery, he tore the posterior cruciate ligament in his knee, which sidelined him for most of the 2021-22 season.

“I was unsure whether I wanted to go to college or just go home just because of all the injuries I had suffered,” he said. “When I tore my PCL I thought, ‘That’s it for me, it’s time to go home. “”

Alderson instead joined the Wilkes Barre/Scranton Knights of the United States Premier Hockey League, who had called him earlier that season and asked if he would join them for the playoffs.

He had eight points (three goals, five assists) in nine games and his college dream lived on.

“I’m back to love the game, to have fun,” he said. “I think I found my ‘why I love playing the game’, why I started playing the game. After all the injuries and after all the setbacks, I kind of lost sight of why I play the game. At the same time, going through them, I think, has only made me love him more.”

Alderson hopes playing well at Castleton will lead to an opportunity at an NCAA Division I school before his eligibility expires. He also wants to return to the international scene and play in the Great Britain men’s national team, which is No. 18 in the world. Great Britain will host the 2023 IIHF World Championship Division I Group A tournament in Nottingham, England from April 29 to May 5.

“It’s something I talked to my coaches and my parents about,” he said. “I want to be able to play a full season of hockey and play hockey that I know I can play, and I hope to get an invite for that.”

Photos: Castleton University Athletics, Hendrik Soots

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