DARRYL KNIGHT Special To The Standard
UXBRIDGE: Liam Blais' hockey journey has taken the 21-year-old Uxbridge native to Elliot Lake for the past two seasons, with the next chapter set to unfold in Wisconsin, after recently committing to join the hockey program at the University of Wisconsin-Superior in the fall.
“Finally signing, was a big relief, and I'm really excited for the opportunity," Blais told The Standard. "Not a lot of kids get the chance to play at the NCAA level, and Wisconsin-Superior is a great program with a new coach, looking for a fresh start. I'm excited to be part of what they are building.”
Blais noted that he chose to join the Yellow Jackets, after receiving interest from several schools in the northeast and midwest United States, following a pair of successful seasons at the Junior 'A' level. As Elliot Lake is in the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League (NOJHL), the 5'10" 163 lb. centre emerged as one of the top defensive forwards in the league. As well, Blais expanded on his offensive role this past season, ranking among Elliot Lake's leading scorers, with 18 goals and 21 assists in 40 games.
"I'm planning to major in business, and the excellent academic reputation was really important to me. It's a great school, with great facilities including a recently renovated arena that's one of the best in the midwest," added Blais.
The move to the NCAA ranks concludes a less-than-typical minor and junior hockey career for Blais. While many of his peers spent considerable time with elite 'AAA' teams in their youth, Blais played the entirety of his minor hockey career with the Uxbridge Stars at the 'A' and 'AA' level, after starting in the Timbits program at age 4.
After captaining the Stars to a Lakeshore League championship and an OMHA quarterfinals appearance in his final Midget season, Blais joined his hometown Bruins for the 2013-14 season, taking home Most Improved Player honours. Prior to the 2014-15 season, hungry for further opportunities, Blais headed north to Elliot Lake, after turning heads over the summer at the prestigious TEP Showcase Tournament in Toronto.
“I take a lot of pride in the path that I've taken, and it's been a lot of hard work, with a lot of great support from my family. Moving to Elliot Lake and playing for the Wildcats, was an amazing opportunity to grow as a player," explained Blais. "I went from being on the ice two or three times a week, to working on my game every day. My sole purpose in my time there, was hockey, and it paid off with this new opportunity to play at Superior.”
The Wisconsin Yellow Jacket’s men's hockey team won the NAIA National Championship in 1976 and the NCAA Division III National Championship in 2002.
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