A mid-season exhibition series with two iconic NCAA hockey teams is cutting Brad Hoban’s holiday break short.
The 22-year-old West Shore native is currently third in scoring on the UBC Thunderbirds hockey team with four goals and 14 points, his second year with the club. This week he’s back in Vancouver a week early as the Thunderbirds are part of a four-team tournament with visiting NCAA Div. 1 clubs North Dakota (formerly the Fighting Sioux) and the Princeton Tigers, as well as the Simon Fraser University men’s hockey club, which plays in the B.C. Intercollegiate Hockey League with UVic.
It’s a rare West coast match-up between CIS and NCAA teams though it happens somewhat regularly in the East. Hoban is excited about seeing the famous UND and Princeton logos at the other end of the ice though he’s not rushing out the door to leave his family and friends.
“Last year we had an NCAA tourney but they were Div. 3 teams, so it’s exciting this year to play a team (such as North Dakota) and see a lot of (former) B.C. and Alberta junior Hockey League players,” Hoban said.
Among the many ex-BCHL stars with North Dakota is Saanich’s Wade Murphy, a Nashville Predators draft pick who played for the Victoria Grizzlies and then won the RBC Cup national championship with the Penticton Vees.
“I anticipate (UND and Princeton) will have pretty good speed and skill, they’ll move the puck really well,” Hoban said.
Back when he was a Juan de Fuca midget player attending Belmont secondary, Hoban chose the WHL over the BCHL and a potential NCAA scholarship. The choice was made easier because the Swift Current Broncos committed to him as a 16-year-old rookie, meaning he knew he had a good chance at playing five full Western Hockey League seasons, which he did. It earned him five years of university tuition and books money which led him to immediately sign with the Thunderbirds.
“It’s weird to think about when I see a NCAA team, that I could have been on that team.”
The CIS is a league where players make a lot less mistakes at five-on-five compared to the WHL, Hoban said, which makes it a special teams game. On the power play is where his team gets the bulk of their offensive opportunities. But it’s been a “frustrating start” for the Thunderbirds with only five wins in the first 16 games.
Hoban believes the T-Birds are a lot better than their record shows.
“We haven’t been playing at well. It’s still fun, going to school and playing hockey, but it’s frustrating. We should be better.”
The Thunderbirds fly to Regina for a pair of games on Jan. 10 and 11 against the Regina Cougars.
Hoban is studying political science and will likely pursue pro hockey when he graduates.
Also on the Thunderbirds from Greater Victoria is Jason Yee, a defenceman who played in the BCHL final with the Powell River Kings.
UND features a host of BCHL scoring champs with last year’s superstar Adam Tambellini of Edmonton, Alta., who won the 2013 BCHL championship with the Surrey Eagles by defeating Murphy and the Vees in the final.
2014 Great Northwest Showcase at Burnaby’s Bill Copeland Sports Centre
Jan. 34 pm SFU vs Princeton7 pm UBC vs UNDJan. 44 pm UBC vs Princeton7 pm SFU vs UND