The Vipers’ most recognizable Bostonian has returned to Vernon for a hopeful victory lap with the defending BCHL Interior Division champions.
Liam Coughlin planned on attending Boston University to play for the five-time NCAA champion Terriers this fall.
“It is my dream school. I don’t know how it’s looking anymore, I would love to go there if I could. Right now I’m just talking to other schools,” said Coughlin.
Towards the end of August, Coughlin needed a place to play hockey, so he decided to return to the Okanagan.
“This is a good situation for me here. It’s nice here, I like it and I am glad to be back,” said Coughlin.
Away from the rink, Coughlin is taking general studies at UBCO to upgrade his marks so he can enter a business program next fall.
“I didn’t think at first he would be back, but I talked to him towards the end of summer and he told me he missed this place,” said Vipers’ teammate T.J. Dumonceaux. “He’s a great player and a great skater. I’m happy he is back.”
Interim head coach Kevin Kraus is thrilled to have his top winger back.
“We are expecting big things out of Liam this year.”
This summer, Coughlin spent a lot of time with his friends on the beach, watched the Boston Red Sox nuke their season and witnessed a dream come true.
One of the most exciting moments of the 6-foot-3, South Boston product’s life was when the Edmonton Oilers selected him in the fifth round, 130th overall, in the NHL entry draft in Philadelphia.
“It was unbelievable. I was playing in a street hockey tourney in my hometown when someone yelled out that I got drafted by the Oilers. I left the game, saw my family that was there and it was so amazing,” grinned Coughlin.
He is now unsigned property of the Oilers, who won’t offer him a contract until his college days are behind him.
“Right now, they want me to go to school and be comfortable. They continue to check in on me and track my progress,” said Coughlin.
Last year’s Viper Rookie of the Year supplied 18 goals and 45 points in 53 games. This season, it might look like Coughlin is playing Xbox on easy mode.
“I want a lot more points than last year, maybe double them,” laughed Coughlin. “I can’t wait for the season to start.”
He won’t have to wait long. The Vipers open their regular season this afternoon against the Cowichan Valley Capitals in Chilliwack at the B.C. Hockey League Showcase at the Prospera Centre. It also marks his 20th birthday.
“I don’t think I have ever played on my birthday before. Hopefully I get a few goals as a birthday present; it is a big game too,” said Coughlin, who shares no relation with new Viper forward and Fairport, N.Y. product Johnny Coughlin.
The Vipers appear to have a legitimate scoring punch each time their first line steps onto the ice. Coughlin is slated to play beside other fresh-faced Americans Luke Voltin (Blaine, Minn.) and Thomas Aldworth (Keller, Texas). Aldworth and Voltin looked very impressive in their exhibition games.
“It’s huge having him going into another team’s building. He is a marked man now and he has to come out twice as hard and prove himself,” said Kraus.
Coughlin has some chemistry with Aldworth after the two went to the same prep school in Massachusetts and played for the Junior Bruins.
The Vipers battle the Victoria Grizzlies Saturday afternoon in their last game at the Showcase.
Vernon tangles with the West Kelowna Warriors next Friday at Royal LePage Place with the same teams meeting the following night at Kal Tire Place.