Lipkin Inks Deal with NHL’s Coyotes

Lipkin Inks Deal with NHL’s Coyotes

The Jewish hockey player from Quinnipiac University helped lead his team to back-to-back NCAA Regional Finals.

Several days after his sophomore season ended for the defending national champion Quinnipiac Bobcats, Sam Lipkin signed his entry-level contract with the Arizona Coyotes to jumpstart his pro career // Photo Credit: Kate Dibildox, Photographer for the Tucson Roadrunners 
Several days after his sophomore season ended for the defending national champion Quinnipiac Bobcats, Sam Lipkin signed his entry-level contract with the Arizona Coyotes to jumpstart his pro career // Photo Credit: Kate Dibildox, Photographer for the Tucson Roadrunners 

While skating off the ice at Providence’s Amica Mutual Pavilion on the evening of March 31, seconds after he and his Quinnipiac brothers lost, 5-4, in overtime to heavily favored Boston College in the Division I men’s hockey NCAA Regional Final, sophomore forward Sam Lipkin was a bundle of emotions.

After jumping out to an early second period 2-0 lead, Lipkin and the Bobcats had been agonizingly close to stunning the No. 1 team in the land and returning to the Frozen Four in defense of their 2023 national championship, the first in the small Connecticut school’s history, only to see BC close things out in the extra session.

And that was only from a team perspective. Then there was the looming personal decision – to stay in school another year or capitalize on his phenomenal two-year collegiate run and sign that enticing entry-level NHL contract?

“There was a lot going through my head – ‘Is this the last one, is it not?’ But for me, I was in the moment just with the boys, weeping with them,” Lipkin recalled about his team nearly knocking off an opponent in BC that was stacked with future NHL skaters.

“That was probably the best game we played all year. I was so proud of the boys, how we competed. I feel like we should have had a better result. It was definitely a tough moment in the locker room with the guys.”

Ultimately, the heartbreaking loss to the Eagles was the last one in NCAA competition for Lipkin as the native of Lafayette Hill, Penn., who was raised in a proud Jewish household, opted to sign a three-year pact with the Arizona Coyotes (a franchise that will soon be transported to Salt Lake City, giving Utah its first ever NHL footprint) and report to their minor-league affiliate in Tucson. After all, hockey’s a sport where a career-ending injury is one vicious cross-check away, and Lipkin, like so many other college hockey stars, often leave school early to chase their NHL dreams when the opportunity presents itself.

“It was a tough three or four days where I kind of just reflected,” added Lipkin, who spent quite a few hours during the first week of April consulting with family and his advisor at school. “I think we made a great decision and I’m really happy about it.”

Quinnipiac, a school whose athletic and academic reputations have gotten a huge boost in the wake of the hockey team’s run this decade, was more than accommodating in allowing Lipkin to take incompletes on his courses so that he can finish them this summer and be on track for one day getting his diploma. But before that transpires, he has soaked up the opportunity to contribute to Tucson’s playoff push in the American Hockey League (AHL).

“We’ve got a great group in Tucson,” said Lipkin, who can best be described as a rugged and instinctive two-way wing who fearlessly bolts through the neutral zone. “I’m ecstatic. Waking up to 80 degrees outside is a great thing for me.”

If Lipkin gets called up to the big club next season – which would be a soaring achievement considering he was a seventh-round draft pick in 2021 – it won’t be in sunny Arizona. Shortly after he inked his entry level deal with the Coyotes, it was announced that the embattled franchise will be headed to Salt Lake City next winter. The bombshell news release was quite the introduction to the ecosystem of pro sports.

“Obviously, there’s a lot of buzz going on but for me, when I decided to sign, it was for me to be one step closer to playing in the National Hockey League,” explained Lipkin, who followed up an ECAC Rookie of the Year season by tallying 35 points during his sophomore campaign. “I’m not thinking about it too much.”

But even as he gets closer to taking his first NHL shift, Lipkin continues thinking about his now former Quinnipiac teammates who made a serious run of pulling off the improbable back-to-back championships.

“To bring home their first national championship was a goal of mine going into Quinnipiac,” he added. “To be able to accomplish that, I think it just leaves a legacy forever. I just can’t thank Quinnipiac enough for what they did for me on the ice but also off the ice as a person.

“That group of guys, they’re my friends for life. I don’t think that bond will ever go away. I’m really excited about that and to be an alum of Quinnipiac.”

As it so happens, last year’s title team had a quartet of Jewish players: Lipkin, who dished the primary assist on the game-winning goal in overtime of the 2023 National Championship against the University of Minnesota, goalies Yaniv Perets and Noah Altman (he was on this year’s squad), and forward T.J. Friedmann.

Meanwhile this year’s champs, the University of Denver Pioneers, had the Buium brothers, Shai and Zeev, both of whom are likely bound for the NHL one day. Clearly, there’s a robust pipeline of Jewish hockey players coming up through the ranks of college, from all corners of the country, who will soon skate alongside current Jewish NHL veterans.

For Lipkin, who takes great pride in sharing that “Judaism is something that has been a part of my family for a long time,” being able to leverage the ultra-visible platform of the NHL to publicly embrace Judaism will make the realization of his dream that much sweeter.

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