By Jesse Vineyard/GCU Staff
Offseason recruiting is well underway, and Grand Canyon University Men’s Ice Hockey is ready to reveal its first group for the 2018-19 season.
Lopes’ Head Coach Danny Roy has signed five new players in the last two months to push the early recruiting class to six, including Malik Lamotte-Stokes, who committed and signed back in early April.
Each player comes from a junior hockey team from across North America. Of the five, four are forwards and one is a defenseman. Forwards Brenden Bouvier and Callum Tomlin both hail from Ontario, Canada, while Blair Lindholm arrives from Minnesota and Luke Stephenson from California. Kevin Dunton, the lone defenseman of the group, is from Idaho.
“The nice thing is that these guys have size, but they also have skill,” Roy said. “They all can use their size to protect the puck and make stuff happen. We were up there in the average size in the league last year, and these guys will help us be up there again.”
Brenden Bouvier comes from Niagara Falls, Ontario, just north of Buffalo, New York. The 19-year-old played last season in the Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League, splitting time between the Pelham Panthers and the Buffalo Regals, where he finished the season. In the 2016-17 season, Bouvier started his junior hockey career with the Regals, where he was team captain, before moving on to the Muskoka Wild in the Canadian Premier Junior Hockey League. In 44 games played last year, the 6-foot-1, 187-pound forward scored six goals with eight assists.
“Brenden is coming from a good junior level up in Canada,” Roy said. “He is going to help us on offense for sure, but he is going to bring that leadership aspect and be able to carry that captaincy that he had, and add to our culture by being a mature leader.”
Callum Tomlin arrives from Kingston, Ontario, on the northeastern edge of Lake Ontario. The 18-year-old last played two seasons ago in the Provincial Junior Hockey League with the Amherstview Jets. That year, the 5-foot-9, 165-pound forward played in 33 games, and scored a goal with three assists. Since then, Tomlin has battled his way through an ankle injury that has kept him out of the lineup, but Roy says his energy and fight to get back from his injury caught his attention.
“He is an energetic player that has skill and ability to handle the puck and create some offense,” Roy said. “We’re expecting that he’ll be able to jump right in and contribute offensively.”
Hailing from northwestern Minnesota, Blair Lindholm comes to the Lopes after playing his entire career in Thief River Falls, where he played three years at Thief River Falls High School before moving on and playing the last two seasons with the Junior A Thief River Falls Norskies in the Superior International Junior Hockey League. Last year, the 6-foot, 170-pound forward scored a career-high 17 goals and 13 assists in 58 games played, including a goal scored and an assist in the SIJHL Playoffs. The year before, Lindholm posted 11 goals and seven assists.
“Lindholm is coming from a pretty good high school program in Minnesota,” remarked Roy. “He is going to add a full package just by where he is coming from. He’s tough, he can score and he’s mature. He is really going to help mold what we have been missing.”
Luke Stephenson last played for the San Diego Junior Gulls in the North American Prospects Hockey League in 2016. That year, the 21-year-old forward scored twice with an assist. Standing at 5-foot-11, 170 pounds, the native of Escondido, California is a former teammate of current GCU junior forward Cameron Wojnicki from their time on the San Diego Junior Gulls.
“I didn’t know what to expect of him with him being two years off of hockey, but at camp he was by far the best player,” Roy said. “I’m excited to see what he is going to bring. He’s fast, he’s got some strength and he’s a very mature person as well. He is very enthusiastic about the opportunity to play with us.”
Hailing from Eagle, Idaho, Kevin Dunton last played in 2016 for the Junior A Idaho Junior Steelheads (now the Idaho IceCats) in the Western States Hockey League. Dunton has been out of hockey for the last two seasons due to injury, but the 6-foot-4, 200-pound defenseman has continued to work his way back to playing, and has now decided to further his hockey and education career at GCU.
“He is a big body,” said Roy about the signing. “He’ll play physical and has some skill and ability. The couple years off has shown, but once he gets his reps, he is going to be another good, solid defenseman for us with his size and ability to move and shoot the puck.”
The Lopes finished the 2017-18 season with an overall record of 16-14 with three ties, and wound up with a No. 9 ranking in the American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA) Division II West Poll.