A self-motivator, Mason Blacklock is thinking big as the 52nd B.C. Hockey League approaches. His personal goal is claiming the Vern Dye Memorial Trophy as MVP of the Interior Division.
Winning that hardware would put him in the same category as the likes of Travis Zajac, Chuck Kobasew, Paul Kariya and Vernon Viper grads Hunter Bishop and Lanny Gare.
The Michigan Tech University Huskies believe in Blacklock’s potential and have signed the Viper forward to a scholarship offer.
“My advisor has a good, close history with the school and I have some close buddies who went there,” said Blacklock, moments after practice Wednesday at Kal Tire Place. “They made me feel welcome from the day they started talking to me and at the end of the day, I was just really comfortable going to a school and good program like that.”
The Huskies love the BCHL and Blacklock checked with Michigan Tech buddies Jujhar Khaira, Alex Petan and Ryan Sweeney before signing a letter of intent. His linemate, Demico Hannoun, and Vernon’s Alex Gillies, of the Salmon Arm SilverBacks, have also signed commitments with Michigan Tech.
“Mel Pearson (head coach) used to coach at Michigan (Wolverines) and he’s brought a lot of guys to the NHL and my goal is to go to the NHL and get an education at the same time.”
Huskies’ assistant coach Bill Muckalt, a former BCHL superstar, was at Viper training camp two weeks ago. Muckalt and Blacklock have been talking since last season.
Blacklock, 19, still has two years of BCHL eligibility and will play this season for the Vipers. The NCAA Division I Huskies will decide whether he joins them for the following season, or the 2015-16 campaign.
“Mason has become an elite player in the BCHL and will progress into a very good college hockey player,” said Vipers’ head coach/GM Jason Williamson. “Since his arrival in Vernon, he has been one of our most consistent and dangerous players.”
The 6-foot-1, 195-pound White Rock product joined the Snakes at the trading deadline last January, in the Adam Tambellini blockbuster with the Surrey Eagles. The fourth-year veteran amassed 19 goals, 35 points and 14 penalty minutes in 53 games.
Added Williamson: “Mason has worked very hard to become the player he is. He is very deserving of this and I look forward to watching him grow as a player this year. He will definitely be one of our go-to-guys and someone we will lean on going into the 2014 Royal Bank Cup.”
The Huskies are based in Houghton, population 7,700.
Blacklock is used to change, having previously played for Langley and Nanaimo before joining Surrey. He pocketed 25 goals as a 15-year-old with the Valley West Hawks of the B.C. Major Midget League.
“The last nine months have been a whirlwind,” said the soft-spoken Blacklock. “I just re-established myself as kind of a top player. I came to a great organization in Vernon and I have a chance to compete in an RBC this year which not a lot of guys can say right now.
“You kind of gotta relish in the moment, but also realize what kind of an opportunity we have here and not take it lightly and work hard from day one, win and go in the right way.”
A fan of Flyers’ phenom Claude Giroux and the Vancouver Canucks, Blacklock earns his shower every shift. He leads by example.
“I wanna come back to where I was last year and even more. I wanna be a dynamic player, a bit more of a playmaker and I wanna be a leader, that guys who can kind of model their game after. For me, personally, I wanna be the best player in the league this year and never be satisfied, get a bit better each day.”
And after 32 games in a championship-team atmosphere in Surrey, he believes the Vipers match well with the Eagles’ mind-set.
“I think we’re close. I’m noticing this year, which is very important, the guys are close. There’s no cliques. We’ve got four really good lines that can all play, a really solid dee core and really solid goaltending which is what you need.”
Meanwhile, the Vipers have dealt defenceman Bryce Eviston to the Coquitlam Express in exchange for future considerations.
Eviston, a 19-year-old out of Vancouver, earned one goal, four points and 14 penalty minutes in 50 games last year.
The Vipers are one player over the 22-man limit as they prepare to start the season at the Bauer Showcase Saturday morning in Chilliwack against Surrey. Vernon faces the host Chiefs Sunday night.
The Vipers’ home opener is Saturday, Sept. 14 against the Salmon Arm SilverBacks.