September 2, 2022 | SPORTS | By Michael Braithwaite | Photo by Sienna Busby

Every year, all Colorado College varsity sports programs bring in new first-year students who were recruited to continue their athletic pursuits on a greater stage than in their high schools or pre-professional leagues. These recruits, while expected to maintain the same intense academic rigor as their non-varsity peers, have the added task of representing and playing a part in their respective varsity programs.

The CC men’s Division I hockey team is no exception, starting the year with eight new first-year students whom they hope will make a mark on both the program and school over the next four years. One of these players is goalie Kaidan Mbereko ’26.

Mbereko, hailing from Aspen, Colo., comes to the Tigers by way of the Lincoln Stars of the United States Hockey League. While on the Stars, he posted a 3.01 goals-against average and a 0.898 save percentage in 35 games played, leading the team to an 18-11-3 record in the process.

After the USHL season ended in late April, Mbereko spent the summer representing Team USA at the International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Championship, an event that brings together the top under-20 national hockey teams from around the world. Throughout the two weeks of play, he posted a 1.76 goals-against-average – second lowest in the tournament among goalies with at least three games played.

“It was really great … I got to represent more than myself and play the game I love too,” said Mbereko. “At the end of the day, it’s just another hockey game. My focus and preparation [were] just for playing another hockey game and wanting to win not only for the USA, but for my teammates too.”

Mbereko comes to the Tigers as one of three goalies on the active roster and seems as if he is poised to take over the starting goalie position full-time when incumbent goalie Matt Vernon ’23 graduates at the end of the year. Following the transfer of Dominic Basse ’24 to St. Cloud State University in the Spring, Vernon is now the only goalie on CC’s active roster that has received collegiate playing time.

Despite being new to both CC and the hockey program, Mbereko seems to be fitting in just fine with the rest of the team.

“Thankfully, I was here in the summer doing B Block, so [I] kinda got to meet the team and get to know the guys a little bit,” said Mbereko. “It’s been a great process.”

In addition to his notable statistical achievements, Mbereko’s background gives added significance to his place on CC’s hockey roster. Mbereko is the first Black player to be on the active hockey roster for the Tigers in at least 15 years (based upon the published online rosters) and was only the third ever Black goalie to make a Team USA World Juniors roster.

In a sport such as hockey that is lacking in Black athlete representation even in the professional leagues, having Mbereko on CC’s roster not only bodes well for the on-the-ice excellence of the program but also for its off-the-ice impact.

“It’s definitely honoring and [it’s] something I should be looking out for. Hopefully, I can inspire more kids to [play hockey], either if you’re African American or any other race or gender,” said Mbereko.

The CC hockey team will play its first game of the season on Saturday, Oct. 1 at Air Force. Throughout the season, be sure to look out for Mbereko in net, as, with his ability and experience even just as a first-year, he has the potential to be a cornerstone of the team for the foreseeable future.

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