Being nominated for the CPIHL Justin Yingling Memorial Award is a huge honor for all high school hockey players within the central Pennsylvania area.
Being named a finalist, especially one from Hershey, is something that is even more special. Yingling, who is the namesake of the trophy, is a Hershey grad who also helped coach Hershey for a couple years as well. On top of that, the most recent winner of the award was Jason Rippon, a senior forward in 2020, and his teammate at the time and current senior defenseman Connor Cain is hoping to follow in his footsteps.
“It’s a big honor to be nominated for this award,” Cain said. “Unfortunately, I never got to be coached by Justin and meet him, but I am glad to potentially get the award.”
Anytime a coach has a finalist named for the award, it is also an honor for them. For Hershey Head Coach Jarrod Hill, it hits home even more.
“Justin was a very good friend of mine,” Hill said. “We grew up together. We were best friends in high school, so any time I can have a player be a finalist, it’s something I appreciate, and it’s something that I view as an honor, and so does Connor.”
What’s more is Cain secretly raised money for a fallen baseball teammate back in 2017 with the motto #LiveLikeLuke, so the Yingling Award is extra special to him as well.
But why exactly did Cain get nominated for the award?
On top of his coach praising his 100 percent at all times effort, Cain is also a player who has stepped up from day one and made an immediate impact on his team.
“He was a player that we could rely on early on,” Hill said. “He played good minutes as a freshman and sophomore, and was always willing and ready. He is always willing to sacrifice his body for the team, and he is always providing a great example on how to play and give it your all. He wants those minutes and he wants to be involved in the big moments.”
Cain is a team player who the coaches know they can rely on. He is a player who always wants what is best for the team, and while he is a proven winner, he is also someone who wants to see his teammates improve every single day.
They are a team that is full of underclassmen, so it has been a bit of a learning curve for not only them, but also for Cain to be in the leadership role he is in.
“We’ve got a good team and a resilient group,” he said. “The team all starts with my friend and captain Toby Kauffman. Our team works hard, and we’re also a young team, so it’s a learning experience. They will be good in a couple years. I know that for a fact.”
Any player who has this sort of confidence in his team and their potential is a player worth standing by, and that is probably why he gets to wear the assistant’s A on his chest every game.
Wearing a letter means you are doing something right and it means that your teammates should be looking up to you, and Cain does not take that lightly. He steps into that leadership role each and every single day the team steps on that ice.
“It’s a big honor,” Cain said. “It means I have to be willing to work every day. I can’t be slacking. Not just at the rink, but everywhere.”
Cain is a role model of sorts, not just on that ice, but for Hershey High School as a whole, and he fits that leadership and mentoring role very well.
“He’s grown into a leader,” Hill said. “He’s been an assistant captain the last two years and wants to demonstrate the proper work ethics. He’s about the team and wants what is best for the team. He is willing to help his teammates improve.”
Cain is someone that these underclassmen can really look up to and rely on helping them out in any situation. He is a reliant, four year player who has stepped up more and more each year.
He wears that Trojan jersey with pride each and every game, and he is proud to be a part of such a successful program. He hopes to cap off his great Hershey career with the Yingling Award and by getting to lift that Bears Cup Championship one final time on Friday.
“What does it mean to be a Hershey Trojan? It’s the best,” Cain said. “We’re the best team. Everyone wants to be a Trojan. We’re all winners. I love the players and the coaching staff. Everything has been great.”
Cain has come a long way since he created a baseball team in honor of his teammate who passed away in his younger years, and he would love to see it come full circle by winning the Yingling Award.