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Rivier Raiders hockey breaks the ice: first commit has special connection

Jon Tavella breaks the ice as first commit to Raiders Men’s Ice Hockey inaugural NCAA Division III team.

Jon Tavella Hockey

Jon Tavella

United States Premier Hockey League player Jon Tavella has committed to Rivier University for the 2021-22 season. Currently a forward on the Islanders Hockey Club in the National Collegiate Development Conference, Jon was the first of seventeen players to commit to the Raiders Men’s Ice Hockey inaugural NCAA Division III team. The addition of men’s and women’s ice hockey in fall 2021 expands Raiders Athletics to 15 intercollegiate teams.

“Jon is a hardworking, gritty, and talented forward, who plays with an edge,” say Raiders Head Coach Eric Sorenson. “He has a tremendous hockey IQ and sees the ice very well. His ability to skate at a high level combined with his competitive nature will make him a valuable member of our men’s program and the Rivier community moving forward. We are incredibly excited that he chose to be the first member of our men’s ice hockey family.”

More than coach and future player, Sorenson and Tavella have a history. “What makes this even more special, is that I played hockey with Jon’s older brother Dave at Western New England University,” Sorenson continues. “It’s is great to see him go from the 10-year-old running around Smead Arena, where we played our WNE home games, to the standout hockey player and person he is now.”


Coach Eric Sorenson (in the net) and Dave Tavella (to his right) played on the Western New England University Golden Bears. Tavella jokes, “Sorey and I played at WNE together for three years. We did a lot together since we were both defensive players. I blocked a lot of shots for him.”

The Tavellas are a dedicated hockey family. Jon’s older brother and sister both played hockey throughout their school careers. “I went to all my brother’s and sister’s games growing up, and that’s where I really fell for the sport,” says Tavella. “I loved seeing the crowd, and the hockey was so fast and intense. Playing college hockey has been a goal of mine ever since I could lace ‘em up.”

Tavella is from East Longmeadow, Massachusetts, and has played hockey since age 4. He was a member of the varsity hockey teams at Pope Francis Preparatory School—the premier high school program out of Western Massachusetts—and Tilton School prior to joining the Islanders Hockey Club.

Tavella tweetHeading into his high school sophomore year, he was named MVP of the Hockey Night in Boston Tournament, a major hockey tournament in New England that takes place each summer. Following that achievement, he received MVP awards at the Cardinal Classic and Cardinal Invitational hosted by Pope Francis. Tavella’s decorated career at Pope Francis did not stop there. He scored 101 career points in 3 seasons at Pope Francis and was the top scorer two consecutive years in the Super 8 – Massachusetts annual high school ice hockey tournament held at TD Garden, home of the Boston Bruins, to crown a State Champion. Tavella is the seventh all-time top scorer in Super 8 history.

With experience and motivation to match his talent, Tavella is an outstanding recruit. He considered Curry College, Stonehill College, Fitchburg State University, the University of Southern Maine, and Salve Regina University, but ultimately chose Rivier “because there’s opportunity at this school for everyone.”

“My decision to come to Rivier was pretty simple—the location, the size, and Coach Sorenson leading the program make it a great fit,” shares Tavella. “From a hockey standpoint, I like the challenge of being a new club and proving to everyone what Rivier University is all about. As a first-year program, we have the chance to do something very special.”

Eager to expand their program, Raiders Athletics celebrated the milestone of signing its first men’s team recruit. “Jon was a strong first recruit to our men’s ice hockey program,” says Joanne Merrill, Director of Athletics. “I have confidence that his talents and leadership on and off the ice will fuel his success at Rivier and be an inspiration to other students as well.”

Tavella will join Rivier’s Class of 2025 this coming fall as a business major and student-athlete. “I am extremely honored to be the first hockey commit at Rivier,” he says. “I’m blessed to have this opportunity and can’t wait to meet all my classmates and teammates. I know there are great things ahead for the University and the Rivier ice hockey programs.”

Several of his teammates from the Islanders, Pope Francis, and the Tilton School have congratulated Tavella on his University choice and expressed interest in Rivier’s program. “Having Jon join Rivier hockey as our first recruit was a huge step in getting the program going where we all want it to go,” says Coach Sorenson. “He is driven by the goal of success, of winning, and that is the mindset that will fill our locker room.”

Rivier’s Office of Undergraduate Admissions is actively recruiting student-athletes to play for the men’s and women’s ice hockey teams in fall 2021. Students interested in learning more about playing ice hockey at Rivier University should contact Paul Brower, Vice President for Enrollment Management, at (603) 897-8516 or

Jon Tavella

Jon Tavella (center) to join Rivier Raiders inaugural men’s ice hockey team in fall 2021.