James Davenport is enjoying life. He’s a 19-year-old American playing the sport he loves in one of the most picturesque cities in Canada.
But the Victoria Grizzlies’ rookie defenceman’s stay on the Island looks like it’ll be a short one, thanks to the lure of playing NCAA Div. 1 hockey in his back yard.
Davenport, who leads Grizzlies’ blue-liners in goals with seven and points with 22, recently committed to play next fall at Northeastern University in Boston. The Natick, Massachusetts, native had committed to Brown University last year, but when things didn’t look like they would work out at Brown and Northeastern came calling, Davenport didn’t hesitate.
“I couldn’t say yes quick enough,” Davenport said Friday as the Grizzlies prepared for tonight’s B.C. Hockey League contest in Port Alberni against the Bulldogs.
“Northeastern is just such a great opportunity for me. My hometown, a Beanpot [tournament] team, I’ve just always wanted to go there.”
Davenport will also have some familiar faces at Northeastern as Riley Hughes and Jeremie Bucheler, two players from last year’s Grizzlies squad, are currently with the Huskies, who play in the Hockey East conference, alongside former Grizzlies captain Alex Newhook’s Boston College team, Boston University, and Merrimack College, where another former Grizzlies player from a year ago, Ryan Nolan, plays. And current Grizzlies forward Chase McInnis is committed to Northeastern for the fall of 2021.
“I played with Riley in high school, and know Bucheler a little bit, and with Chase heading there later, there’s going to a whole cast of buddies on the team so it’s going to be a fun time,” Davenport said.
Grizzlies GM and head coach Craig Didmon says, while he’s disappointed he won’t have Davenport patrolling the Grizzlies’ blue line next season, it’s “the nature of the beast.”
“It’s unfortunate we don’t get him for another year, however, credit to James on his work ethic and the organization for helping move another player on to college hockey,” said Didmon.
“James has found his comfort zone over the last couple of months and we’ve leaned on him for offence from the blue line and he has risen to the opportunity.
“He’s a good player, good teammate and we are hoping he can continue to help us improve and are looking forward to a good playoff run ahead that he will be a big part of.”
How long a playoff run Victoria has will likely be determined in these last few weeks of the regular season. The Grizzlies (19-29-1) are unlikely to catch the Bulldogs (24-20-3) for fourth place in the Island Division, so their focus has turned to getting the top wild-card seed which will have them avoid playing the top two teams in the Interior Division — Penticton Vees and Trail Smoke Eaters — in the first round of the playoffs. The top wild-card team will start the playoffs on the road against the third-place team in the Interior, currently the Vernon Vipers. The Grizzlies, at 39 points, currently hold the first of three wild-card berths. The Prince George Spruce Kings are in the second wild-card spot with 37 points, while the West Kelowna Warriors are the third wild-card team at 36 points, but have played one game more than the Grizzlies.
“That’s our goal, to be the top wild-card team, and that all starts with having a good game tonight and keeping our little streak going,” said Davenport, who has helped the Grizzlies rack up three wins and an overtime loss in their last four games.
“Alberni is a great team and we’ve both played each other a lot so we know what we have to do and how we need to come out and play our game and we’re confident we’ll do that.”
LOOSE PUCKS: The Grizzlies will again be without veteran forward Eddie Yan as he’s with Team China at the Div. II B world junior championship in South Korea.