Friday, April 26, 2013

UNH Recruit Michael McNicholas Ready for Western Canada Cup

UNH Recruit Michael McNicholas
 of the Nanaimo Clippers

Starting this weekend, Nanaimo, British Columbia, which sits on the shore of Vancouver Island, will be the hub of Junior A hockey in all of Western Canada. The Champions of the British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba Junior Hockey Leagues have travelled to Nanaimo to compete in the inaugural Western Canada Cup, sponsored by Crescent Point Energy. The teams will be battling for two berths in the Royal Bank Cup Tournament for the Junior A Championship of Canada.

The round-robin phase of the Western Canada Cup begins tomorrow and runs until May 2nd. The Nanaimo Clippers, host team of the tournament, the Surrey Eagles (BCHL), Brooks Bandits (AJHL), Yorkton Terriers (SJHL) and Steinbach Pistons (MJHL) will play each other once. The 4 teams with the most points at the end of the round-robin will advance to the Championship Round. The #1 and #2 teams will play on May 4th and the winner automatically earns one of the berths in the RBC. The #3 and #4 teams play each other for the right to play the loser of the #1-#2 game. The winner of this consolation game will earn the second berth in the RBC.

Michael McNicholas Draws Penalty
For UNH recruit Michael McNicholas (DOB: 3/23/1994), who turned 19 last month, the WCC is a fresh opportunity to end the 2012-13 season on a high note. Prior to breaking a bone in his lower leg on January 7th, McNicholas was the third leading scorer on the Nanaimo Clippers. In 35 games, he had posted 32 points including 10 goals. His 22 assists put him in 8th place among all BCHL players.

Nearly 9 weeks after breaking his leg, McNicholas returned to the Clippers' lineup for the first game of the BCHL playoffs against the Alberni Valley Bulldogs. Nanaimo won Game 1 and McNicholas assisted on the game-winning goal. After winning the first two games, the Clippers lost three in a row and were eliminated from the playoffs by Alberni Valley. McNicholas played in 4 games.

I had an opportunity to interview Michael McNicholas, via email, about his preparation for the Western Canada Cup:

Mike Lowry ("C-H-C"): After missing 9 weeks of the regular season due to a broken leg, you returned to play in 4 out of the Clippers' 5 playoff games. How close are you to your pre-injury condition (e.g., speed, endurance, etc.)?
Michael McNicholas: I was able to go home for about 2 ½ weeks in between playoffs and the WCC training camp. At home, I made sure to eat healthy and worked out twice each day. I trained with my summer trainer, Chad Moreau. I also received on-ice training from a local youth hockey coach, Jack Bowkus and was able to use the skating treadmill at the Toyota Sports Center in El Segundo.
I also was able to brush up on skills with several scrimmages. As a result, I felt 100% by the time I returned to Nanaimo to begin practicing with my team in preparation for the WCC where we played camp-style games. My game has improved with each skate.
I feel really good about where I am right now. I am looking forward to the competition at this tournament and, hopefully, the RBC for the national championship.

Mike Lowry: In a preseason interview with The UNH Men's Hockey Blog, you said you hoped to be a reliable, point-producing center for the Clippers and to continue to improve your defensive game. Have you attained these goals?
Michael McNicholas: I believe I have proven to be a reliable player for Coach Vandekamp. The first thing Coach Vandekamp did was move me to the wing where I played on a great line with Greg Fraser and Kyle Kramer. I played wing for most of the season. Prior to my injury I was third on my team in scoring and in the top 15-20 scorers in the BCHL, producing about a point per game. Since WCC camp, I have been centering Matt Grant and Reid Sturos. I feel very comfortable in that role.

Lowry: Nanaimo is hosting the inaugural Western Canada Cup and competing against the champions from the British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba Junior Hockey Leagues. Can you describe what this tournament means for the Clippers' organization and the city of Nanaimo?
McNicholas: This is a huge event for both Nanaimo and the Clippers. The Clippers have a long tradition of excellence (40 years). The WCC tournament is providing the organization with an opportunity to showcase how great the Clippers are. We expect many college and professional scouts to be in attendance.
The tournament will hopefully bring local Nanaimo residents out who don’t normally attend the Clippers’ games to see the Clippers and other hockey teams from Western Canada. I think this will be great for both the city and the Clippers to showcase the high level of hockey available to the local residents. I am very proud and happy to be a part of this inaugural event.

Lowry: The Surrey Eagles are the BCHL Champions and will compete in the WCC. Last December, the Clippers defeated Surrey 5-2 and you scored a goal and an assist. What type of game do you expect from the Eagles?
McNicholas: Since last December there have been many trades for both our team and the Eagles. I wouldn’t assume that they are the same team as last December. Therefore, I believe the Eagles will bring to Nanaimo what they brought against Penticton in the league championship.
They are skilled and fast and have one of the best goaltenders in junior hockey. However, we have not played a game with the existing Clippers’ roster healthy. The fans will be very happy with our level of play. I have confidence that we can defeat Surrey as long as we play to our potential.

Lowry: You graduated from high school last spring. Did you take any post-graduate courses this year? Have you met the entrance requirements of the NCAA Clearinghouse and the UNH Admissions Office?
McNicholas: I have met all of the entrance requirements imposed by UNH admissions. Last fall I took a psychology course at Vancouver Island University after being approved by UNH. I will get credit for this course. I have submitted everything to the NCAA Clearinghouse (eligibility center) and have no reason to believe I won’t be approved. I had previously been told that as long as my grades and ACT score were satisfactory, I should get through the admissions process at UNH.


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