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B.C. Hockey League sets NCAA scholarships record

Nine Grizzlies committed to U.S. NCAA Division 1 athletic scholarships
Grizzlies forward Luc Pelletier, who hails from Courtenay, will be attending Princeton University. DARREN STONE, TIMES COLONIST

Victoria Grizzlies players Luc Pelletier will be skating from the Q Centre into Princeton and 2023 NHL-draft ranked Hoyt Stanley into Cornell, where they will be Ivy League rivals.

They might also cross skate grooves with current Grizzlies teammates Eli Barnett, the NHL San Jose Sharks-drafted blueliner headed to the University of Vermont, or Boston University-bound Grizzlies teammates Jack Gorton and Tim Busconi.

They are part of the nine Grizzlies committed to U.S. NCAA Division 1 athletic scholarships. Tonight’s visitors to the Q Centre, the Powell River Kings, have seven NCAA Division 1-committed players.

Saturday’s Grizzlies’ opponent in Colwood, the league-leading and defending BCHL champion Penticton Vees, have 17.

They have all combined to set a new BCHL season record for the number of players committed to the NCAA. The record 174 players, and counting, breaks the old league record of 173 set in the 2019-20 season and matched in 2021-22.

“Sometimes people take this for granted but an NCAA scholarship is worth $200,000 over four seasons. It’s a big thing,” said Grizzlies general manager and head coach Rylan Ferster.

“It’s a credit to all the programs in the BCHL but, in the end, it’s the players themselves who earn the scholarships.”

It’s a league in which grade-point average matters as much as points-per-game average.

“We are incredibly proud to reach this new benchmark for NCAA Division I committed athletes in the BCHL,” Steven Cocker, BCHL deputy commissioner and chief operating officer, said in a statement.

“Despite the adversity the league faced over the past couple of years, the BCHL has bounced back in a major way as we continue our upward trend as one of North America’s top junior hockey leagues producing collegiate athletes. Development doesn’t stop on the ice, as our teams are also doing a phenomenal job to ensure their athletes are as ready for the classroom as they are for the ice.”

In announcing the record this week, the league released statistics detailing that 57 BCHL players received their NCAA scholarship commitments this season (the rest were returning players carrying over from past seasons), 87 current players earned their scholarships while playing in the BCHL while 87 current players had their commitments signed before entering the league as recruits.

There are 411 BCHL alumni playing in NCAA Division 1 this season which, impressively, amounts to nearly one-quarter of all players this season in NCAA Division 1 hockey.

Victoria (16-13-6) is sixth in the BCHL Coastal Conference heading into tonight’s game against the seventh-place Kings (12-19-5). Ferster dismissed any talk of the Grizzlies having a possible trap game against Powell River as they perhaps look ahead to the much-anticipated lone matchup of the season Saturday night at the Q Centre against the formidable class-of-the-league Vees (34-3).

“Penticton is obviously a great team, but we lost our last two games last weekend, so we better be focused on [tonight] first against a conference opponent [Kings],” said Ferster.

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