Vernon Viper defenceman Malcolm Lyles has signed with the University of Massachusetts-Lowell Riverhawks.

Vernon Viper defenceman Malcolm Lyles has signed with the University of Massachusetts-Lowell Riverhawks.

Riverhawks lure Lyles back east

A cross between Disney On Ice and a Don Cherry Rock’em Sock’em Hockey video. Perhaps it’s the best way to summarize Malcolm Lyles’ styling ways on the Vernon Vipers’ blueline.

No matter how you describe the unorthodox 20-year-old Florida product, he’s got game. So much he has signed a scholarship deal with the University of Massachusetts-Lowell Riverhawks for next year.

“He’s one of a kind,” said Viper captain David Robinson. “He’s always jumping around out there. I’d probably say he’s the fastest player in the league and maybe the strongest player in the league as well. You see him many times just tossing around guys. He’s naturally talented.”

Robinson, as do many, figures Lyles will one day make a living playing the game.

“For sure, he’s got all the tools to be a good college player. He’s fast enough. He’ll probably be one of the fastest guys on U-Mass next year so it will be interesting to see how far he can go with all his talent.”

This will be Lyles’ second tour of duty in the NCAA Hockey East. He got in just 13 games with the talent-rich Boston Eagles two years before joining the Vipers to refine his skills.

“It feels good to finally have it done and going back east where my family is so I’m happy about that,” said Lyles, moments after registering the overtime winner Wednesday night in a 2-1 win over the Nanaimo Clippers.

“It’s a good school, it’s a Massachussets school which is pretty good, and a nice rink. So even if I was a healthy (scratch) for some reason, I’d be in a good situation.”

He drew interest from a few teams elsewhere in the U.S., but he wanted an easy flight for his folks.

“I can’t relax too much, I can just check it off my to-do list,” said Lyles, who has 7-17-24 through 47 games. “Just keep practising hard and playing and enjoying the moment because this is the last year I’m gonna be able to play junior. I made a great choice coming to Vernon; I’m enjoying every minute of it.”

Even opposing teams marvel at the moxy Lyles brings each night.

“He’s obviously a really good player,” said Nanaimo Clippers’ top scorer Andrew Gladiuk. “He controls the play when he’s out there, moves the puck really well, sees things, and he’s got good speed and he’s really hard to get around when you’re one-on-one with him.

“I think he will be a very good college player and he has pro potential. He’s a force out there.”

Said Nanaimo head coach Bill Bestwick, who played NCAA hockey at now defunct St. Louis University: “I really liked him in Nanaimo. I went and watched Vernon play in Cowichan on the Wednesday night when they were on the Island and I watched them in Alberni and I really liked him. As a matter of fact, I’ve complemented him to many people throughout the NC2A world so good for him. He reads the play well, he gets up in the play well and he’s a strong player. He’s not real big but he’s certainly strong for his size, agile, good offensive instincts, I like him a lot so good for him, he deserves it.”

Lyles, whose brother Milton plays field lacrosse for the University of North Carolina Tar Heels, has been a star almost every game the last month.

“Malcolm has steadily improved throughout the season and has become one of the premier defencemen in the league,” said Vipers’ assistant coach Jason Williamson. “His skating ability and strength are among the best in the BCHL. His style of play has made him a fan favourite.

Lyles was born in Florida but received most of his schooling in the Boston area. He was on the Deerfield Academy track and football teams, and was the running back on the Eaglebrook School’s first undefeated football team in 2004.

He played summer hockey with fellow Viper Kyle Murphy on the Boston Icemen from age 8-13.

Robinson was all smiles discussing Lyles’ special letter of intent day.

“It’s awesome. I think the fans would attest he’s probably the most exciting player on our team. You saw tonight, he had six seconds left, he had the puck in our own end and somehow he got that overtime winner.

“He’s played well all year for us and he came a long way to play. Everyone loves him on the team and it’s nice to see him get a scholarship.”