Photo Credit: UAH Athletics
Ayodele (Ayo) Adeniye is a textbook study in the value of working hard, and a player emblematic of the type of person that College Hockey welcomes with open arms on a yearly basis. He is a freshman defender for the Alabama Huntsville Chargers, and six feet, five inches tall. For those who have not seen him play, he has some elements of Columbus Blue Jacket, Seth Jones, to his game. Ayo plays a persistent, two way game where he will not light up the points column each year, but he will work his best to keep the other team’s top players off the scoresheet as well. He is the only pre-reinstatement of Charger Hockey recruit that stayed committed to this school despite having an offer to go elsewhere.
Growing up in Columbus Ohio, Ayo was exposed to sport itself, naturally. Both of his parents had athletic backgrounds, as does Ayo’s extended family, but none of them had ever played hockey. When Ayo was three years old, his mom, Lisa Ramos, took him to a High School Hockey game after a birthday party, and from that moment, hockey has been Ayo’s passion, and hopefully one day, it will be his professional career following his time as a Charger.
A few years later, Ayo had to deal with some hardship on his climb up the development ladder. His AAA team, the Ohio Blue Jackets, cut him. As a result, two times per week for his time before leaving to play hockey in the south, Lisa drove him two hours each way to practice with the Cleveland Lumberjacks program. This for Ramos is a four hour round trip, combined with games and other excursions.
The year following his time in Cleveland, he went to the Florida Eels program, and began to work his way up the ladder once more. As his coach at the time Frank Scarapaci illuminated on the following when Ayo committed to the Chargers: “ [Ayo] had so much promise.. We could see it at training camp. He had great vision on the ice. He was so mature for his age. He was not afraid to jump in on the play. This fit right in line with the Eels style of play using the defense on the line rush. Ayodele worked tirelessly on his skill set. He often stayed 3 hours on the ice daily working with the older Elite team. He developed into a very strong defenseman with clean hard passes on the breakout, he battled relentlessly in the defensive zone where he established deeded rights in the crease. This young man never back down no matter how big or strong the opposing forwards were… he was a very explosive skater; he had a very heavy shot on the offensive blue line. His pucks got to the net. He was a consummate threat on the power play… I couldn’t be happier for Ayo and his family. When we got him a few years ago we knew he was a special player. His skill, speed and size easily stood out especially knowing how young he was. It’s not easy for a young player of 16 to step into a lineup of 20 year old’s and not just compete but contribute and that’s what he did. He’s a real respectful kid who is always wanting to get better so I’m excited for him getting this opportunity… Ayodele is a high character young man. He came from a loving and supportive Mom and Dad who made enormous sacrifices to allow this young man to reach his goals. It makes us all very proud here at the Florida Eels to have played a part in Ayodele’s life to help him reach and realize his goals and dreams of one day playing NCAA Division I college hockey. Less than 1% of all players garner this opportunity and we could not be more proud and excited that this is happening to Ayodele.”
From there, Ayo continued to get better, going back to the Blue Jackets before playing the last two seasons with the Carleton Place Canadiens of the Central Canadian Hockey League (CCHL). He was teammates with current Charger and sophomore Peyton Francis for Francis’ final run in junior hockey. Ayo noted that, of all the team he has played with that the 18-19 Canadians group was “most fun team I’ve ever played for.” Ayo enjoyed the town and the culture of it as well, and he was part of a great group. He finished his time as a Canadian with World Juniors netminder for team Canada, and Northeastern Freshman, Devon Levi.
Now, because his family lives six hours away from Huntsville, in Gulfport Mississippi, they are able to come visit and hopefully see him play at the Von Braun Center in the new year, a luxury they have not had for more than a few years given Ayo moving everywhere he needed to move up the ladder to Division One Hockey. He thanked Lisa and his entire family for their support multiple times during this interview, and the sacrifice they made of letting him travel for the game at 16 is another of the many they have made for Ayo to get to this moment.
Moving back to the current season, Ayo rooms with a fellow big freshman defender, Bryan Scoville. The six foot, three inch defender hails from Agawam, Massachusetts and plays a similar game to Ayo. They have been together every game to start the season and compliment one another. Unfortunately, Ayo did not see Scoville’s first goal, a rebound tap home goal against Lake Superior State because he was being tended to after a minor cut so he could jump back in the game. As soon as Scoville got off the ice and he was able to though, Ayo gave him a big hug. The two compliment each other so much, Adeniye noted that they often know what the other player will do in given situations ahead of time.
Going forward, Ayo personally is hoping that his play on the ice gets him to an NHL Development camp soon so he can show what he can do against a team’s top prospects and generate more interest going forward. As he said of a potential invite ” it would mean everything to me,”
As to this current Chargers group, he had similar thoughts to Tyrone Bronte on who is the fastes, noting that Francis has strong straightline speed, but with the puck, Bronte seems to be faster, while also giving credit to one of the leaders on this team for his speed, Bauer Neudecker.
Ayo sees the potnential for greatness in the program as well, and gives a lot of credit to the Advisory Board for moving things forward positively towards the long term sucess of the Chargers, saying ” it helps us get our foot in the door.” Because of the board, and who sits on it, the team is able to have the potential to do things it has not had before, and the board and their planning hopefully make the team more attractive to the conferences they are pitching to join.
Saying that, based on some of his conversations with former Chargers, they have seen the improvement in team play and the culture change. They see and Adeniye knows that the development process works, as he said, ” once we get some experience under us we are going to be a dangerous team.” For him, the biggest on-ice moment the team had was playing to a draw against a very veteran Lake Superior State team. Mentally, that shows this young group that they can get points and win against more teams this year than in the past.
The biggest cultural difference is the dynamic of the team this year, even off the ice. As Ayo said,” The team is truly one group this year, everyone is together and wants to be around each other.” Coaching wise he gives a lot of credit to the leader of the Chargers, Lance West for controlling the locker room.
In addition, he positively called out new Associate Head Coach Karlis Zirnis, saying what Karlis says goes, and that he runs the show as well.
Finally, West’s first thing he said to Ayo sums up where both West and Adeniye see UAH Hockey heading. As West said when thanking Ayo for staying a Charger, according to Adeniye, “We are in it for the long haul and looking to become a top team with Division One Hockey.”
Donate: To help us cover more games and tell more stories not found elsewhere about all of college sports, especially under represented athletes everywhere across the college sports landscape like unique untold stories across college hockey, please click the below link and consider donating what you can. If you do, I will list you in every story about we write as a supporter of crowd-funded journalism that can truly be free for all at this link: https://www.paypal.me/oliverfrancies your donation will help expand what content we can offer and how many stories we can tell