Carter Berger has spent this season passing the puck to talented Victoria Grizzlies teammates Alex Newhook, Riley Hughes and defence partner Jeremie Bucheler.
But next season he’ll be trying to keep the puck away from them.
Berger, the veteran blue-liner from North Vancouver, accepted an NCAA scholarship Friday from the University of Connecticut to begin playing for the Huskies next fall.
UConn plays in the Hockey East Conference, alongside Boston College and Northeastern, among others. Grizzlies captain and projected first-round NHL draft pick Newhook has already committed to Boston College and Hughes, a New York Rangers’ draft pick last summer, and Bucheler are expected to join Northeastern.
It’ll be a Grizzlies family reunion in and around Greater Boston.
“That’ll be different, but a lot of fun,” Berger said prior to taking the ice in Prince George, where he helped the Grizzlies pick up a 4-3 B.C. Hockey League victory to extend their winning streak to five games.
Berger visited the UConn campus in Storrs, a 90-minute drive from Boston, this week, and the 19-year-old blue-liner knew as soon as he walked around the scenic campus that it was the place for him.
“It’s a beautiful campus and the sports facilities are unbelievable so it was an easy decision,” he said.
Berger said he’ll sit down with his family and decide what courses he’ll take and is looking forward to his first year with the Huskies, who also have former Powell River Kings Jonny Evans and Carter Turnbull on their roster. “I was able to take in one of their practices and a workout session and the program looks great.”
Berger, who going into Friday night’s game, had two goals and four assists in nine games, attracted NHL attention last summer, attending the Anaheim Ducks prospects camp as a free agent following a season that saw him get 34 points in 56 regular-season games. Now he hopes the NCAA is the next step toward a pro hockey career.
“I’m looking forward to [NCAA hockey] but first I want to help the Grizzlies win our division and have a long playoff run,” he said.
He helped them Friday, picking up an assist in a wild first period that saw the Grizzlies take a 3-0 lead thanks to goals from Hughes, Charlie Campbell and Alex Campbell.
But the Spruce Kings struck back for three of their own in the second, setting up Newhook’s heroics in the third. With seven minutes remaining, he took a nice feed from Hughes and buried it for his fourth goal of the season.
Kurtis Chapman made 40 saves for the victory, while Logan Neaton took the loss for P.G., making 19 saves.
The Grizzlies now head to Salmon Arm where they’ll take on the Silverbacks tonight, before making their way to West Kelowna on Sunday for an afternoon game against the Warriors.