April 19, 2019
When the Prince George Spruce Kings raised the BCHL championship Fred Page Cup Tuesday night, eight graduates from the BWC Hockey Academy were part of the celebration. All, except for 15 year old call up Fin Williams, had played a year of CSSHL E15 and a year of Midget Prep before moving on to the BCHL.
The players included three 1999 born veterans:
Team captain Ben Poisson (19-C), led the team in playoff scoring with 13G-8A in 17 games, and is committed to University of Maine for the fall, after playing three years with the Spruce Kings.
Nolan Welsh (19-RW), in his second year with the club, following a year with the Victoria Grizzlies, was fourth in playoff scoring, notching 4G-11A in the playoffs.
Liam Watson-Brawn (20-D), also in his third year with the club, is committed to Colgate University for the fall.
Four first year, 2001 born players are in the group:
Nick Bochen (17-D) notched 8G-30A in 57 games this year, fifth overall on the team, and the most of all D-men. Bochen is committed to U Michigan for 2021-2022.
Nichlas Poisson (17-LW) scored 14G-16A in 58 games, and 4G-5A in the playoffs.
Sean Donaldson (18-LW) is committed to U Connecticut for 2020-2021.
Tyler Schleppe (17-C), the youngest of the group, rounds out the 2001 born contingent.
The eighth BWC link on this year’s championship roster, is fifteen year old Fin Williams of North Vancouver, who joined the Spruce Kings for four games in the playoffs. Williams played BWC Bantam Prep last year and Midget Prep this year, scoring 12G-30A as a first year midget, and is committed to University of Michigan for 2021-2022.
This year’s BWC contingent continues a trend, that dates back to 2014, when current Head Coach Adam Maglio and current BWC Hockey Director, Maco Balkovec met at a HP1 Hockey Canada coach training session.
Maglio was then an assistant coach for the UBC Thunderbirds, and the next year moved to PG as an assistant coach.
The two kept in touch, and when an injury left the Spruce Kings down a man a couple of years later, Maglio called Balkovec saying he needed a guy.
“I said take Ben Poisson,” Balcovec recalls, “He’s ready to play now, and he’ll be your captain in three years.”
“After that, it was, who else you got?”
The 1999 year was a strong group at BWC Prep. The two top guns in the 2015-2016 season were Ethan de Jong 23G-38A and Angus Crookshank, 42G-19A, both with 61 points. The two had also led the E15 team.
de Jong moved to the Spruce Kings the following year, along with Poisson, and Watson-Brawn. They joined another ex-BWC alum that year – Kent Johnson (98-F) had spent a year at BWC E15 two years prior.
de Jong led the Spruce Kings in scoring in his second year with 17G-46A, and then moved on to the NCAA Quinnipiac Bobcats (Hamden, Connecticut) this past season, where he put up 10G-15A in 38 games as a freshman, sixth overall on the team.
Crookshank incidentally, has followed a similar path. After playing two years with the BCHL Langley Rivermen, he joined University of New Hampshire Wildcats this season, where he posted 10G-13A in 36 games, and was second overall in team scoring.
Balkovec says the relationship with the Spruce Kings has been good for both organizations, “There’s a trust there now, PG knows we won’t send a kid that isn’t ready to play.”
Balkovec also points out that all of the players who have joined the Spruce Kings, with the exception of Williams, have played in the E15 program as first year midgets.
“I think the key message is, be patient. Don’t try to rush a player’s development.”
Maglio says the key factor for him in recruiting BWC players is knowing that they’ll come in with a game that fits with the Spruce Kings’ structure, and with a mindset that matches his team’s philosophy.
“We’ve built up a lot of mutual trust,” Maglio says, “His players translate well to our game, and he trusts our program to continue to develop the players – not just as hockey players but also as individuals.
“We recruit character kids. Character is number one in our requirements, on and off the ice.
“We know players coming from Maco’s program are going to be hungry to get better everyday. That translates well into our program.”