Sports

Old is new as two Victoria hockey teams add familiar faces for cup runs

Vernon Vipers defenceman Michael Statchuk and Victoria Grizzlies forward   Mark McClellan race for the puck during the Grizz
Vernon Vipers defenceman Michael Statchuk and Victoria Grizzlies forward Mark McClellan race for the puck during the Grizz' 1-0 win on Jan. 20 at Bear Mountain Arena.
— image credit: Sharon Tiffin/News staff

At first glance, Ryan Chan and Pearce Eviston have little in common besides being junior hockey players. They don’t know each other and they play on different teams in different leagues.

But a deeper look tells the story of two players in similar places. How they got there is a different story, but where they’re going is also similar.

The 20-year-olds have both played with their current teams before – Chan with the VIJHL Victoria Cougars and Eviston with the BCHL Victoria Grizzlies – and were returned for the Jan. 10 trade and roster deadline after time away.

Both teams are first in their respective leagues, and both players play big roles as they chase a championship.

Chan was with the Cougars when the team lost in overtime of the Cyclone Taylor Cup final last year. An accomplished academic, the Pacific Christian School grad took this year off hockey to focus on the heavy switch from sciences to engineering at the University of Victoria.

When Cougars assistant coach Suneil Karod phoned Chan early in January, it caught the 5-foot-5 forward by surprise.

“I hadn’t given up on the thought but I also hadn’t seriously thought about coming back,” Chan said. “Actually, the first semester this year was all about filling in some of the gaps that hockey filled, which took up so much time.”

Chan returned to playing guitar with regularity, taking lessons, and took up squash.

“I won’t do those, but even so I’ll still miss some hockey practices. Not much, and I shouldn’t miss any games.”

His return has boosted the speed of the already-fast checking line, and was instrumental in last Sunday’s comeback win over the Nanaimo Buccaneers.

“Chan’s work ethic is incredible. He does whatever he’s told,” Cougars coach Mark Van Helvoirt said.

Eviston’s history with the Grizzlies is more complicated.

The Grizzlies recently acquired him from the Vernon Vipers.

In an odd way, however, Eviston is now the longest-standing Grizzlies player. The 6-foot-1 forward from Vancouver originally played for the Grizzlies in 2009-10 as an affiliate. He broke out as an 18-year-old in 2010-11 with 38 points in 44 games. It was one of the best Grizzlies teams of all time, and he’s the only remaining player from it.

“There’s so much that’s different now. That (2010-11) Grizzlies team was great, it was a good organization. But coming here is a breath of fresh air. We’re the top of the league and everyone meshes together. Bill Bestwick is a phenomenal coach.”

When the Grizz’ playoff run ended in March of 2011, Eviston hooked up with the Portland Winterhawks, and played in 12 of the Winterhawks’ 21 playoff games en route to the 2011 WHL finals.

In the meantime, the Grizz had moved Eviston’s rights to the Vipers, where he returned this year.

Like Chan, Eviston is looking beyond hockey to university, though Eviston is hoping CIS is an option. He has two years paid for from the WHL.

Whatever their path is beyond hockey, Chan and Eviston know this is their best chance to win a cup for Victoria.

sports@vicnews.com

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