The Kootenay International Junior Hockey League is proud to announce the 12 student-athletes who competed during the 2021-22 season that it has selected to receive league bursaries. Each bursary is valued at $1,000 and will be applied towards post-secondary studies.
Eddie Mountain Division
Columbia Valley Rockies – Jonah Fournier: The Canal Flats, B.C. native, who has signed to play in the SJHL with the Nipawin Hawks, will graduate from David Thompson Secondary in Invermere. Fournier would like to earn a National Collegiate Athletic Association scholarship or study a trade in Canada. Over the past two years, Fournier has given his time to various community events or activities. Rockies Head Coach Briar McNaney said Fournier was extremely dedicated to his school work since starting with the organization at 16.
“He set a good standard for not only minor hockey kids, which he would take time out of his day to mentor and help coach, but for the rest of our players as well,” said McNaney. “We had quite a few guys who were doing well in school this year, and Jonah went over and above to be a good example, even at his young age.”
Fournier was allowed to miss two practices a week to focus on his school work and excel and his grades show it. McNaney said Fournier receiving a bursary is well deserved.
“Absolutely well-deserved. He is a tremendous young man who is going to have a bright future at whatever he does.
Fernie Ghostriders – Nick Mitchell: The Fernie native is a graduate of George Elliot Secondary. Next season, Mitchell will attend the University of Oregon, where he will play for the Ducks. Mitchell plans to study business administration at the University of Oregon and it’s his dream to work for Nike’s marketing department.
Ghostriders Head Coach & GM Ty Valin said Mitchell is a great person and I know this organization is fortunate to have had him play in Fernie.
“It’s a pretty impressive accomplishment for him to receive this bursary. He has been very heavily immersed in the community,” he said. “It’s good when you see individuals like that get their recognition and get the scholarships. He’s just one of those people that is happy, he is always smiling, doesn’t matter what is happening. He’s one of those kids that other guys feed off of. It is the joy he brings when he comes to the rink. Everything he does is just so genuine and everything he does is geared to make other people’s lives better.”
Since 2019, Mitchell has given back to his community volunteering with minor hockey, schools and in the community. In 2018, he went on a mission trip to Mexico. While in Mexico, Mitchell helped build multiple houses for the less fortunate and donated items to children in various schools with much needed school supplies.
Neil Murdoch Division
Castlegar Rebels – Griffen Ryden: The Brandon, Manitoba native is a graduate of Warman High School in Warman, Saskatchewan. In the fall he will begin the Bachelor of Management program at Concordia University of Edmonton, while he also plans to apply to the RCMP. While studying, he will also play for the Thunder.
Rebels Head Coach and GM Arnie Caplan said Ryden was their team MVP, enjoying a fantastic season as a leader.
“He is going to an educational institution that very few players in our league get an opportunity to go to,” said Caplan. “I think he is very deserving of the bursary.”
Caplan said COVID-19 presented challenges with giving back to Castlegar as much as they normally would. Caplan said Ryden was quick to raise his hand when they had volunteer activities.
“He was very good at getting involved,” he said. “It was a team-first attitude. One time I walked in the dressing room one night and he was in there vacuuming, cleaning up the room. He was a real team-first guy.”
Ryden has volunteered time in the community with Special Olympics floor hockey, officiated middle school basketball, visited elementary schools, skated with minor hockey players and did visits with Santa, as well as helping out with summer baseball programs.
Beaver Valley Nitehawks – Brennan Wilson: The Grande Prairie, Alberta native graduated from Charles Spencer High School. Wilson will study for a kinesiology diploma at Okanagan College then transfer to UBC-O for a Bachelors of Kinesiology as he would like to work in health sciences, with a focus on athletes with their injuries and recovery. During his studies, Wilson will play in the B.C. Intercollegiate Hockey League with the Lakers.
While playing in the league, Wilson volunteered his time for family skate days in Beaver Valley, floor hockey with special needs people, helping community members move and more.
Nitehawks Head Coach and GM Terry Jones said it’s a tremendous honour to receive a league bursary.
“I believe that Brennan is the type of person who exemplifies outstanding leadership, a tremendous work ethic and the ability to battle through difficult times and be resilient,” he said. “A very humble young man, Brennan always has represented our team and himself with positivity, respect and class. On behalf of our entire Nitehawk family, we are extremely happy for Brennan to receive this bursary and wish him well as he pursues Kinesiology in Kelowna at Okanagan College.”
Doug Birks Division
Chase Heat – Jacob Biensch: The Marsden, Saskatchewan native is the inaugural recipient of the Jaxon Joseph Memorial Scholarship and graduated from Vimy Ridge Academy in June of 2019. Biensch has been taking post-secondary classes at the University of Alberta and is working towards a Bachelor of Science degree with a focus on physical education and kinesiology. Once he completes his degree, he plans to study in the U.S. to earn a chiropractic degree. Biensch is hoping to continue his hockey career with the Augustana Vikings in the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference.
Biensch has dedicated time giving back to the community while playing in Chase. Among the things he’s done is helped with the Weekly Buddies Reading at an elementary school, the Chase Food Bank and back home with a bottle drive for underprivileged kids.
Heat Head Coach Brad Fox said Biensch is deserving of a bursary because of everything he does.
“He took notice right away,” said Fox. “He understood what that (leadership) role meant and what the responsibilities were in that role. He took it with great pride and he wanted to make sure that he was the guy that was going to make sure that it got done based on not saying, but doing.”
Chase Heat – Matthew Poole: The Ardrossan, Alberta native graduated from Vimy Ridge Academy in June of 2019. He has studied finance at Athabasca University and is enrolled in business at the University of Jamestown, as he plays for the Jimmies. Poole wants to become an accountant/financial advisor and has interest in playing pro hockey after playing for the Jimmies.
Fox said Poole deserved a bursary because of how far he has come from the first day he came to Chase three years ago.
“Matthew I think felt that it was going to go and be not as challenging as it was for somebody his size, his stature to play on the back end and be a defenceman and be a leader and go through the hurdles,” said Fox. “The consistent thing was that he just pushed back. He was resilient in the fact he was bound and determined to achieve a certain status to get an opportunity to go to school. To play at a high level at the junior level. Every year he became more mature and a stronger leader.”
He has given back as a volunteer sorting food at Food Banks, shoveling snow, helping in minor hockey and helping seniors move their furniture.
Revelstoke Grizzlies – Brandon Kasdorf: The Rosemary, Alberta native graduated from Rosemary High School and attended Lethbridge College, studying agriculture. Kasdorf would like to play college hockey while studying agricultural sciences and use his education to help his father on the family farm and eventually take it over.
“He is just a hard-working team leader for us,” said Grizzlies Head Coach & GM Ryan Parent. “I don’t think this team would have had the success that it did without him. Looking at Brandon and just his work ethic, there is a guy who maintained our schedule, worked a part-time job while he played. Not only a very good hockey player, but a very committed and focused worker and student.”
Parent said Kasdorf is very focused on what he wants, is a goal-oriented person and “I think he is going to do very well in life.”
Among the things Kasdorf has done to give back is volunteer to help the Revelstoke Food Drive, helped with a bottle drive, worked with minor hockey kids, a 4-H Highway Cleanup and traveled to Bolivia for a mission trip to help children.
Kamloops Storm – Samuel Lewis: The Kamloops native graduated from Sa-Hali Secondary and has been attending Thompson Rivers University, taking Bachelor of Business Administration courses. Lewis intends to finish that degree and pursue a doctorate law degree in B.C. Lewis would like to continue playing junior hockey, with hopes of advancing to Junior A.
His volunteer initiatives include Kamloops Ribfest, One Stop Goaltending Hockey Camp and Michelle Pepin Power Skating. He has also helped at New Life Mission.
Storm GM Matt Kolle said Lewis is a very deserving candidate.
“He’s an education-first type guy,” said Kolle. “He’s the type of person that recognizes the value of education to his future. He’s a quality leadership guy and he takes it serious.”
Kolle added that Lewis balanced hockey with multiple jobs and his university classes. Lewis was always available to volunteer opportunities as Kolle said he has worked with minor hockey teams.
“When there are opportunities, Sam is one of the first guys in,” said Kolle. “Same is one of those guys, he is a pure leader and I think he will be a leader in whatever he does in life. He has got a lot of self confidence and he functions like an adult.”
Bill Ohlhausen Division
Kelowna Chiefs – Frederick Larochelle: The Montreal native is a graduate of Bishop’s College School in Sherbrooke, Quebec. He moved to B.C. last fall to play with the Chiefs while studying management at UBC-O. Larochelle’s future plans include applying to law school as he would like to eventually become a corporate lawyer. During his studies, he has interest in playing collegiate hockey.
“I think it was awesome that he gets that,” said Chiefs Assistant General Manager Larry Hamilton. “He’s a hard-working guy. I know that he takes his schooling very seriously. He even had to miss some games this year to make sure that he was getting his schooling done. I like the idea that the schooling comes first and then the hockey. That is very important to us as well.”
Hamilton said the schools would come in with their classes to do public skating and these guys would stay behind after practice and wear their jerseys and skate around with them. Help them tie the kids’ skates.
“He was one of the best guys doing that,” said Hamilton. “He’s such a good kid. He’s very pleasant to be around. We just had our spring camp and he was out watching the guys, the goalie sessions and helping on the bench and just being around to help out. That’s the kind of person that he is. He was such a pleasure to have on our team last year and was a great teammate. I thought he had a very good year.”
While in Kelowna, he got involved in the community through public skates with kids and helped with poppy donations at Walmart. In his own community, Larochelle has helped serve the homeless, raised nearly $6,000 shaving his head for cancer, and participated in the Terry Fox Run and Colour Run in Montreal.
Osoyoos Coyotes – Nathan Hannon: The Penticton native is a graduate of Penticton Secondary School and will continue his education and hockey career with the University of Oregon Ducks in the ACHA Division 1, where he will study engineering. Hannon is also the recipient of the Remembering Grant Sheridan Scholarship.
Head Coach Carter Rigby said that Hannon comes from a family that places an importance on education, as he came to the Coyotes from the Okanagan Hockey Academy where he was a student-athlete. Learning from that environment made balancing school and hockey second nature for Hannon.
“Now he has put himself in a pretty good position to move on and play some post-secondary hockey,” said Rigby.
The Coyotes coach said Hannon was their captain for a reason, being a great leader.
“He’s a role model to a lot of our younger players. Now being able to use that money that is there from the league to help him move on and continue his education, which is great,” said Rigby.
Hannon was involved with the Coyotes doing community events and planning, making sure teammates were on time. He helped the Osoyoos Go Flooring BBQ and Osoyoos Family Day event, as well as being a skills coach to Penticton Minor Hockey players.
Princeton Posse – Elijah Havers: The Kaslo native graduated in 2020 from J.V. Humphries in Kaslo and started studying real estate from UBC Sauder School of Business the same year. Havers is focused on a career in forestry as he wants to help shape the future in that industry in B.C.
He has always given back to the communities he’s in, and in Princeton he helped with minor hockey, but also when the flooding tragedy impacted many.
Posse Head Coach Mark Readman said that Havers was a great piece for their team this year.
“He’s a kid who had his sights set on what he wanted to do, he’s more than deserving of the award,” said Readman. “Last year in Princeton there was a lot of stuff that happened that obviously were difficult for the town to handle. Elijah was always there willing to lend a hand. He’s a kid who is academically on it throughout the season, taking some courses and staying sharp and challenging himself. As a staff, we just want to be there for our players, whether its pursuing college or Junior A.”
Summerland Steam – Ethan Swift: The West Kelowna native will graduate from Mount Boucherie Secondary High School in June. He plans to attend the University of Calgary, pursuing a degree in commerce and specializing in business analytics. His goal is to work in the business sector and contribute to environmental sustainability. While studying, Swift will play with the U of C’s collegiate baseball team.
“Swifty excelled at a lot of different things here this year,” said Steam Head Coach & GM Mark MacMillan. “I’m pretty sure had a 96 per cent average in his Grade 12 year. He was a part of the U18 college prep baseball team in Kelowna, so he had a lot going on. To be able to keep his school marks as high as he did, and play as well as he did at the rink, and be a part of his baseball team, I think shows a lot about Ethan’s commitment to what he is doing. For that reason, it’s pretty easy to see why he deserves it.”
MacMillan added he is well liked by his teammates.
“When I first took over the job, I did some votes on who should be an assistant captain and almost every single guy, the first name out of their mouth was Swifty, so that just goes to show you what kind of kid he is” said MacMillan. “He is well respected in the locker room, and a leader.”
Swift has given back to the community by helping with the Tim’s Smile Cookie Event, Terry Fox Run, The Salvation Army with COMBA College Prep and a COMBA volunteer.