Graduating from junior hockey to the college ranks has in past years been the realm of junior A players and above.
More often, however, college teams are coming looking to find players competing in the junior B ranks.
The Victoria Cougars’ Kyle Wade is the latest to ink a college deal south of the border. The four-year Vancouver Island Hockey League forward committed to attend the University of Arizona, starting this fall. He’ll join former Cougars goaltender Anthony Ciurro on the Wildcats roster.
“I want to thank the entire Cougars organization for everything over the past two seasons,” Wade said in a release. “From the executive to the volunteers, it has been a great experience for me as a hockey player and a person.”
Head coach Suneil Karod and assistants Brody Coulter and Jake Stolz, Wade said, pushed him to grow his game and help him achieve his goal of playing college hockey.
Karod noted that Wade, a local hockey product who had spent the previous two seasons with the VIJHL’s Oceanside Generals, came to the club with longer-term objectives.
“He said ‘I need to play better defence and play better on the penalty kill,’” the coach recalled.
Wade went on to become a solid all-around player for the Cougars who could be relied upon to score a big goal or shut down an opposing sniper, Karod added.
Wade tallied 25 goals and 37 assists for 62 points in 77 games for Victoria.
Cougars team governor George Linger said Wade “proved to be one of the leaders on our team, a really good kid on and off the ice,” he said. “It’s nice to see. He’s a respectful young man and he’s developed good skills in terms of realizing that he has to contribute to the community.”
Earlier this off-season, Victoria goalie Patrick Ostermann committed to play for the University of Alabama Crimson Tide, starting this fall.
He was in a similar situation to Wade when he agreed to join the Cougars last summer for one final junior season, Karod said: looking to continue playing hockey at a high level but also hoping for an opportunity to start his post-secondary education.
“We want our younger players to move on to junior A and we want our older players to move on to school,” Karod said. “Guys that come here, they still have life goals in terms of hockey and school. They come to compete and they’re still striving for something.”