Noonan banks Beantown scholly

Viper defenceman Garrett Noonan (left) closes in on the host Dauphin Kings' Ryan Dreger during Royal Bank Cup action in early May.

It took Garrett Noonan just one season to accomplish what many B.C. Hockey Leaguers struggle for years to uncover – an NCAA scholarship.

Noonan, a no-nonsense, stay-at-home defenceman last year with the Vernon Vipers, will play this season with the Boston University Terriers.

It is probably a year sooner than the Snakes were expecting. They were looking for Noonan to fill the role of top shutdown defenceman, on a blueline that has already lost veterans Dan Nycholat, Curtis Gedig and Kevin Kraus to graduation or college commitments.

“Garrett was going to be a huge part of our defence this year, but any time you get a chance to play for Boston, especially if you’re from there, you gotta take it,” said Vipers’ assistant coach Jason Williamson. “It was a pretty tough decision for him, but in the end I think he made the right one.”

For the 19-year-old Norkfolk, Mass., playing for a team he grew up watching is a dream come true.

“Growing up I’ve always wanted to play for BU, and in the Beanpot (tournament with the four Boston-area college teams – Harvard Crimson, Northeastern Huskies, Boston College Eagles and Terriers),” said Noonan, a long-suffering Toronto Maple Leafs fan who lists Los Angeles Kings’ defencemen Jack Johnson and Drew Doughty as his favourite players.

“It was a great feeling (signing), but I’m definitely going to miss Vernon. Ferns and Willy (coaches Mark Ferner and Williamson) were the best coaches I ever had. I also want to thank my billets, Rick and Lynne Chisholm.”

Noonan was looking forward to another season with the Vipers, but when some spots on the Terrier blueline opened up, he says their scouts came calling.

“They were probably watching Sahir (Gill, BU prospect)… a few of their guys signed in the NHL so they were looking for d-men. It was a lucky situation to jump in with all these other guys leaving,” he said.

From the time Noonan came to the Vipers’ main camp last September, Williamson says he stood out.

“He just really competed hard. He came in as a bit of an unknown, but right away we could see he could play.”

Noonan posted a pair of goals, 16 helpers and 60 penalty minutes in 58 regular-season games with Vernon. He added nine points in 32 post-season games, helping the Vipers earn a Royal Bank Cup title earlier this month in Dauphin, Man.

Competition in the Hockey East conference should be interesting this season, as Noonan will have the task of shutting down former roommate and Boston-area native, Mike Collins, who is joining former Viper d-man Kyle Bigos on the Merrimack Warriors. He will also have to contend with forward Braden Pimm (Northeastern Huskies).

Fortunately, Noonan will have a few Viper connections on the Terriers as he and Gill will join sophomore forward Ryan Santana.

And all three of Noonan’s coaches attended his high school – Catholic Memorial. Head coach Jack Parker played there in the 1960s, assistant Buddy Powers in the early ‘70s, and associate head coach Mike Bavis in the late ‘80s.

“When I went there on a visit, they made me feel right at home,” said Noonan, who plans to study communications with the hope of entering sports broadcasting.

Said Parker: “We’re excited to have him in our fold. The kid has figured out the game in all three zones, and not only does he understand his position, but he understands every position out there.

“He has a solid sense of what’s going on out there.”