Sunday, July 15, 2012

UNH Recruit Mike McNicholas Joins Nanaimo Clippers

After considering several options, 18-year-old forward and UNH recruit Mike McNicholas has decided to play for the Nanaimo Clippers of the British Columbia Hockey League this season. Last season, Mike McNicholas played for the Muskegon Lumberjacks of the United States Hockey League. Over the first couple months of the season, McNicholas, who was 17 at the time, was given limited playing opportunities Over the first 16 games, he played in only 6. But in December, McNicholas got to play regularly and he became a contributor. During a 5-game stretch in mid-December, McNicholas scored 2 goals and 3 assists and was named the "UNH Recruit Player of the Week". Overall, McNicholas finished the season with 5 goals - including a game-winning goal - and 4 assists in 48 games. The Lumberjacks won only 17 games, finished in last place in the Eastern Conference, and missed the playoffs.

In the following interview, Mike McNicholas describes what was involved in deciding to make the jump from the USHL to the BCHL and his plans for playing NCAA hockey:

C-H-C: What were the main reasons you chose to play for the Clippers in the BCHL?
Mike McNicholas: I was looking to play for a team where I would have the opportunity to play in a role as a reliable, point-producing center who could be counted on to help win a championship for the team and to develop as a player for college hockey. After discussions between (Clippers) Coach Mike Vandekamp, my parents and UNH Coach Scott Borek, and after consulting with many other people close to the game, including my Victory Honda Coach Brian Burke, I have concluded that Nanaimo is the best place to accomplish my goals. Coach Vandekamp’s extensive junior hockey coaching record of winning, the rich hockey history of Nanaimo, and Nanaimo’s hosting the Western Canada Cup were all factors in my decision.

C-H-C: Incoming UNH freshman Dan Correale played for Nanaimo last season. Was that a factor in your decision?
McNicholas: Yes. First and foremost, I would only play in a league which has the stamp of approval from UNH hockey. Coach Borek talked about the success of Dan Correale in Nanaimo, and had high regard for his development in Nanaimo. Having a UNH player on the roster added credibility to the program and earned serious consideration as a viable option.

C-H-C: What were the other teams you were considering?
McNicholas: We were speaking to Vernon and Penticton in the BCHL as well as Des Moines and Indiana in the USHL. We had additional offers from New Jersey in the EJHL and Wenatchee in the NAHL.

C-H-C: Coming out of the Muskegon Lumberjacks' Tryout Camp in June, you had made the 25-man active roster and were on track to play your second full season for the Lumberjacks. What factors lead you to choose to leave the Muskegon franchise?
McNicholas: My commitment to UNH is open from 2012 to 2014. After a strong midget season at Victory Honda in 2010-11 and after leading all scorers at the USA Hockey National Development Camp in 2011, I had hopes of not only playing one year in the USHL, and then heading for UNH, but also receiving due consideration in the NHL draft. Muskegon clearly was not on the same page and last season I was never given the chance to utilize my talents to help the team win. It was my hope for this season that the Muskegon management would give me an opportunity to assume a leadership role as a top 6 forward on the Lumberjacks. They represented that I would have that opportunity when last season ended and I remained hopeful and excited. When I arrived at camp in June, it was quite clear that the management wanted to move in a different direction with new and unproven players. There was no doubt in my mind that I needed to find a program that was willing to give me a chance. I have been told that my style of play will be a great fit in the BCHL. I am looking forward to the challenge.

C-H-C: Are you and UNH targeting the fall of 2013 or fall 2014 for you to come to Durham?
McNicholas: I am hopeful that I will have an extremely productive season in Nanaimo. I realize that the only way that I will be attending UNH in 2013 is if I fulfill the expectations that Coach Vandekamp and I have for this season. My offensive play must be solid, my defensive game needs to continue to develop as it did in Muskegon, and I need to be instrumental in bringing the RBC Cup to Nanaimo.

C-H-C: As a native of California, you've played for teams in Los Angeles, Plymouth, Michigan, Muskegon, and now Nanaimo, British Columbia. What's it like to play your junior hockey in so many different parts of North America?
McNicholas: Most people don’t realize that I am actually a native of Nevada. I played several years in Las Vegas before my family moved to Southern California. Ice hockey has allowed me to play in virtually every Canadian province, as well as in most states in the U.S., and to play with or against the best players in the world who are close to my age. It is tough to leave Michigan. I had a great experience playing for Coach Burke at Victory Honda and made great friends with my teammates. I had a great billet family in Muskegon and I graduated from Mona Shores High School in Muskegon. But looking ahead, my immediate goal is to have a great season in Nanaimo and bring the RBC Cup to Nanaimo. The ultimate goal is to be an impact player at UNH. I get to prepare for that on Vancouver Island for a team with a long and storied history. I could not be happier about this season and I am anxious to contribute.

C-H-C: Next year in Nanaimo, will you be taking any courses to further your education?
McNicholas: One of the great benefits of playing in Nanaimo is the proximity of Vancouver Island University which is just a few minutes from our training facilities. I intend to register for one general education course per semester.

The Nanaimo Clippers open training camp in late August. They open the season on September 15th against the Powell River Kings. The Clippers will be celebrating their 40th season.


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