Thursday, April 14, 2016

Angus Crookshank Commits to UNH

16-year-old Forward
Angus Crookshank

At nearly 2,500 miles, the talent pipeline between British Columbia and Durham, New Hampshire is one of the longest in college hockey. It's also one of the most enduring. Hobey Baker Award winner Jason Krog came to UNH from Fernie, BC in the Fall of 1995. In recent years, the stream of highly skilled forwards has continued to flow.

Angus Crookshank
Burnaby Winter Club Prep
Grayson Downing from Abbotsford played four years at UNH, joined the Century Club with 56 goals and 56 assists, and currently plays for the AHL Iowa Wild. Marcus Vela from Burnaby was drafted by the San Jose Sharks last summer and scored 7 goals and 9 assists in his freshman season at UNH. 2016 UNH commit Liam Blackburn from Prince George has potted 66 goals and 122 assists in three seasons with the West Kelowna Warriors in the British Columbia Hockey League. And now, 16-year-old Angus Crookshank (DOB: 10/2/1999) from North Vancouver has verbally accepted an athletic scholarship offer to come to UNH in the Fall of 2018.

Crookshank, a 5'10", 170 lbs. left-shot forward recently completed a breakthrough season with the Burnaby Winter Club Hockey Academy Prep team. BWC Prep is a member of the Canadian Sport School Hockey League, a conference of 13 elite athletic and academic programs in British Columbia, Alberta, and Idaho. The Prep Division is for 15, 16, and 17-year-old players striving to play Canadian Junior A or Major Junior hockey. In 35 regular season games, Angus scored 42 goals and 19 assists and earned the CSSHL Prep Most Valuable Player Award.

Here's a video profile of Angus Crookshank produced by BWC Hockey Academy in August, 2015:

Crookshank's progress last season was rewarded by a call-up to the Langley Rivermen of the BCHL in January. In all, he played in 4 regular season games and 1 BCHL Playoff game. On the first shift of his first game on January 21st, Angus scored this goal:

Maco Balkovec is the Director of the Burnaby Winter Club Hockey Academy and Head Coach of the Prep team. Balkovec played 4 years for the University of Wisconsin in the early 1990's and was selected in the 5th Round of the 1991 NHL Draft by the Chicago Blackhawks. When Angus Crookshank's commitment to UNH was announced, Coach Balkovec said:
"We are incredibly happy and proud of this accomplishment for Angus. It’s great for our league, our program, and the Crookshank family. It shows that the CSSHL is about development and that practice matters. I don’t know anyone who works harder than he does; none of this is by accident. His work ethic and his desire to get better are exemplary, he is an “everyday” player. Angus has that burn to win and that willingness to put in the time to get better. We talked yesterday and the last thing he said to me was, ‘Now the real work begins.’ We are all so excited to see where he goes from here and to watch his development path. UNH has had great success with BC players and we hope this continues with Angus."
I contacted Langley Rivermen Head Coach and General Manager Bobby Henderson and he offered these thoughts on Angus' commitment to UNH:
"We are extremely excited for Angus and his commitment to UNH. He is a phenomenal kid. We expect him to develop into a high end Division I player."
I had an opportunity to interview Angus Crookshank, via email, about his hockey career and commitment to UNH:

Mike Lowry ("C-H-C"): Congratulations on your commitment to play for the University of New Hampshire. What are the main reasons you chose UNH?

Angus Crookshank: Thank you very much. I am very excited about the opportunity to play at UNH. I toured the campus two years ago and I fell in love with the energy here and the feel of the East Coast. (A little ironic since I am born and raised in Vancouver on the west coast). My first choice has always been to play in Hockey East. The level of hockey is excellent - it’s a great collection of teams and solid, tough competition. The coaching staff at UNH are very passionate about their program and they made the final decision very easy for me.

Mike Lowry: What other college programs were you considering? Did other schools verbally offer an athletic scholarship? If so, which ones?

Angus Crookshank: One of the best things about playing for the BWC U18 Academy was the strong academic focus of our head coach, Maco Balkovec. He made sure that we had exposure to a variety of NCAA schools and toured multiple campuses whenever the opportunity arose. I looked very hard at the University of Denver, Providence, Ohio State and Wisconsin and had conversations with several of those schools, as did Coach Balkovec on my behalf. We were still early in those discussions when the offer came from UNH.

Lowry: Have you and the UNH coaches agreed on a target date for you to enroll as a freshman at UNH and join the team?

Crookshank: We are planning to have me join the team for the 2018/19 season as a freshman. That will allow me to play two full seasons in the BCHL for the Langley Rivermen.

Lowry: At this stage in your hockey development, what are the strengths of your game? What areas are you trying to improve?

Crookshank: My hockey IQ is one of my biggest strengths. I see the ice well and have the ability to quickly scan the ice and set up a play. My shot is strong and I am an innovative thinker when faced with the opportunity to put the puck on net. I am known for my gritty work ethic and competitive desire to succeed. Hockey is a game that is constantly changing. It takes steady work and determination to continue to improve and be successful. My focus this summer is on improving my first step and continuing to build on my physical strength.

Lowry: Last season, as a member of the Burnaby Hockey Club's Prep team, you scored the most goals (42) and assists (61) in the Canadian Sport School Hockey League, the elite high school conference in British Columbia and Alberta, and earned the CSSHL's Most Valuable Player award. Your coach was Maco Balkovec, a top defenseman for the University of Wisconsin in the early 1990's and two-year pro in the East Coast Hockey League. What was the most important lesson you learned from Coach Balkovec?

Crookshank: Coach Balkovec is a tough, competitive coach and he holds his players to a high standard of conduct and work ethic. You can’t take days off. You have to be working at your game every day whether it be through dryland training, on-ice skills, nutritional choices or mental focus exercises. He pushed me to become a better player and to work on all areas of my game. He was a steady support to not only myself but to every member of our team. As a former teacher, he demands not only athletic performance but academic performance as well. Like I said, no days off!

Lowry: Last January, you got called up to play several games with the Langley Rivermen of the BCHL and scored a goal on your first shift. What was that experience like?

Crookshank: That was crazy and I will never forget it. We were up in Prince George and it was my very first game with them. I was a little nervous but once you step onto the ice, all of that just falls away and instinct takes over. Ryan Barrow took the puck wide and threw it on net. I drove the net hard and was fortunate to find the puck on my stick and put it in the net.

Lowry: Do you plan on playing full time for the Rivermen next season? What are the biggest adjustments you will need to make as you move from high school hockey to Junior A?

Crookshank: I was fortunate to be an early commit for the Rivermen and I am looking forward to playing for them next season. I have skated with them for the past two seasons and the chance to become a full time player for Coach Henderson is a great opportunity to move my game to the next level. The biggest adjustment will be to the speed of the game. Junior A is filled with incredible skaters and the game is consistently faster and at a higher skill level. I am looking forward to that part.

Lowry: Although you were not selected in the Western Hockey League's Bantram draft, you are on the Victoria Royals' Player Protected List. Do you have any interest in foregoing the NCAA route and playing major junior hockey in Canada?

Crookshank: I was very honoured to be protected by the Victoria Royals. They are a class organization and very well coached and managed. I thought long and hard about going the WHL route. For years leading up to the Bantam Draft, it was all that players talked about. I was a smaller sized forward during my draft year and size definitely plays a role in the draft selection process. Even before the draft occurred, I had accepted the opportunity to come East with a former coach to tour a number of schools on the East Coast and play in a tournament in the Boston area. That was an eye opening experience and it immediately felt like the right route for me to go.
My dad (George Crookshank, University of Minnesota-Duluth, Class of 1983) played in the NCAA and he always spoke highly of the experience of being a college athlete. When the opportunity presented itself with the Victoria Royals, he allowed me the space to consider both options and make my own decision in terms of my future direction. In the end though, the decision was an easy one and I think he’s pretty happy about the choice that I made (I know that my mom is!)

Lowry: When do you plan to graduate from high school? Will you continue to go to school in Burnaby or transfer to a Langley school?

Crookshank: I will be graduating in 2017 from Langley Secondary. It is the campus that all of the school age players on the Rivermen attend and it will be great to have some teammates with me in my final year of classes.

Lowry: What are your academic strengths and interests?

Crookshank: I have a keen interest in biology and human kinetics, along with business (marketing/communications) and social sciences. I was a French immersion student through Grade 9 when I transferred to Burnaby and I would like to try and keep those language skills up as well.


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