Sheldon Rempal and Devin Brosseau better hope their burgeoning friendship lasts, because they're about to spend a whole lot more time together.
The two 18-year-old Nanaimo Clippers forwards have verbally committed to NCAA Div. 1 hockey power Clarkson University Golden Knights for the fall of 2015.
Both players are in their first B.C. Hockey League season with the Clippers with Rempal coming from Calgary and Brosseau from Montreal suburbia, and have been set up with the same billets.
It became clear they were going to be a package deal, no matter where they ended up.
"We talked every day about it, we also had offers from a different school together, but this was the best fit for us," said Rempal. "We'll be living together there too.
"We've become good friends, and definitely over the next six years, we'll become closer."
The two have made a seamless transition to the league.
The five-foot-10, 170-pound Rempal starred with the Calgary Buffaloes in the Alberta Major Midget Hockey League last year, but now leads the Clippers with 20 points (seven goals, 13 assists) in 17 games, third in BCHL rookie scoring.
"He's kind of a flashy, crowd pleasing kind of player, he's fun to watch out there," said Clippers head coach and general manager Mike Vandekamp. "He's entertaining."
The six-foot-two, 185-pound Brosseau, played last season with the Longueuil College Francais of the Quebec Junior AAA Hockey League and is third in Clippers scoring with 14 points (8-6-14) in 17 games.
"Devin is a good, solid twoway player for us, he's going to grow into that big, solid centreman that can play at both ends of the rink," said Vandekamp. "He's been a leader for us too, stepped up and has done a good job. I think he has a tremendous amount of upside."
Brosseau says Clarkson first approached them at the BCHL Showcase in Chilliwack at the beginning of the season and has been in touch with them on a weekly basis since then. During their road trip to Powell River in September they were both offered full scholarships. On Friday, they made their commitment.
"It's just where your gut feeling is and the right fit and I know it's a great academic school. .. and that just made my choice easier," he said.
Clarkson University, located in Potsdam, N.Y., has been dominant in the East Coast Athletic Conference since 1962, but has fallen on hard times the last five years with a combined record of 59-99-26, including 9-20-7 in 2012-13. Still, they have won 10 ECAC regular season titles, five ECAC championships, and have made the NCAA tournament 20 times, qualifying for the frozen four seven times.
Their NHL alumni include Willie Mitchell, Erik Cole, Grant Clitsome, Craig Conroy, Todd Marchant and Dave Taylor, among many others.
This was a big draw for both Rempal and Brosseau.
"It's a hockey school, it's their only Div. 1 sport they have there, so you're pretty much a celebrity at that school," said Rempal. "It's a great program, I know a lot of guys still go to the NHL from there."
One of the keys to the commitment is that it is for the fall of 2015, meaning they have another full year after this one with the Clippers.
Settling on a future program now was important for Brosseau, as a number of players go into their final year of junior A eligibility with the pressure of securing a scholarship hanging over the season. That's not something he will have to worry about.
"It's a huge weight off your shoulders," said Brosseau.
"I came in here to win a championship but also to get an NCAA scholarship, it was my dream. .. . "Now you can focus on your game and winning a championship. I think it shows on the ice a little, we feel more comfortable and we're really happy to play."
Vandekamp says both the players and the team will benefit from another year together.
"Our focus moving forward is helping them be ready when it is time for them to be start in college," said Vandekamp. "We don't want them to just go there and play, we want them to be contributing factors from the moment that they get there."
The Clippers have three road games this weekend. They are in Powell River to play the Royals on Friday at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday at 5 p.m., and then on Sunday they are in Duncan to play the Cowichan Valley Capitals at 2 p.m.
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