Cullen Bradshaw came to the BCHL to win a championship and hopefully get noticed enough to earn a college scholarship.
He completed one half of his goal this week when the Trail Smoke Eaters announced the 20-year-old Medicine Hat native has committed to attend Sacred Heart University in Connecticut next season.
“It’s a huge relief,” admitted Bradshaw. “We have only have a few more games and it’s nice to get that load of your back and just worry about hockey.”
Bradshaw has played every Smokie game this season and scored 30 goals and 61 points in 56 games. He’s also been named the BCHL Player of the Week twice this season.
He came to Trail during the off-season in a June trade with the Alberta Junior Hockey League’s Brooks Bandits.
“Jim (Smokies head coach Ingram) had a great team here. And I wanted to win a championship. A little part of me also thought you could play at the next level. I’m just happy it worked out.
“Definitely it’s been one of the best decisions I made.”
He agreed that the BCHL offers a great opportunity to be noticed by U.S. college scouts.
“It’s definitely nice to know the schools are coming to watch and if you have a good showing they’re going to take notice.”
He did just that
“He really came on when (Sam) Mellor and (Travis) St. Denis were away with Team Canada West (at the World Junior A Challenge),” Ingram said in a press release. “He’s been one of many bright spots this season; he’s just got the knack and goes to the tough areas to score goals.”
Although Bradshaw has not visited the Connecticut campus, his good friend and future roommate, Ben Lake of the AJHL’s Fort McMurray Oil Barons, visited the school, accepted a scholarship and gave it glowing reviews.
He’ll also join former Smoke Eater Tye Lewis, who played briefly with the team last season before being traded to Alberni Valley for current Trail defenceman Curtis Tonello.
As for the Bradshaw deal last June, only two of the five players remain with the clubs that originally acquired them – Bradshaw and Matt Wilkins.
Wilkins, a Kimberley native, has responded with a career year with the Bandits netting 27 goals and 69 points in 55 games.
Competition begins Saturday in Halifax although majority of locals compete in Week 2
The Canada Winter Games may begin on Friday with the Opening Ceremonies but only one of five local athletes on Team B.C. will compete in the first week.
Over 2,500 athletes will descend upon Halifax for 15 days of competition in 23 sports.
However, fans tracking local talent will only see Luke Bertolucci in action during the first week of the Games.
Bertolucci, a member of Team B.C.’s male hockey team, begins play on Saturday versus Quebec. That’s followed by games against the host Nova Scotia team on Sunday and Ontario on Monday. Qualification games begin next Tuesday with the medal games scheduled for Feb. 18.
While Bertolucci will be wrapping up the male hockey portion of the Games, a quartet of local athletes will be arriving for Week 2 of competition.
Ella Matteucci, who will captain Team B.C.’s female hockey team, begins play on Feb. 20 against Alberta. The team plays a second game that day against Ontario.
The team returns to action on Feb. 22 against Newfoundland-Labrador and faces Saskatchewan on Feb. 23.
Placement games are on Feb. 24 and 25, and the medal games are set for Feb. 26.
That should be a busy day for local viewers.
Rebecca Reid and Geoffrey Richards will be wrapping up the cross country ski events with the relay races.
The duo begins competition on Feb. 21 with the men’s 10km and women’s 7.5km classic races. The sprint races will be held on Feb. 22 and the 15km and 10km classic races on Feb. 23.
At the same ski resort, Ski Martock, Warfield’s Tommy Pitman is scheduled to compete for Team B.C. in the snowboardcross event.
Although Pitman arrives with the rest of the boarders on Feb. 19, he won’t slide into the start gate until seven days after landing in Halifax.
“It’s not bad,” he said. “It gives us more time for training.”
The 2011 Canada Winter Games wrap up on Feb. 27 with the Closing Ceremonies.