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UNB makes for a nice Plan B (or A)

Tyler Boland of St. John’s had 48 goals and 55 assists to lead the Rimouski Oceanic in scoring last season, and finished runner-up in the QMJHL’s scoring race.
Tyler Boland of St. John’s had 48 goals and 55 assists to lead the Rimouski Oceanic in scoring last season, and finished runner-up in the QMJHL’s scoring race.

It’s always good to have options, and Tyler Boland has a couple as he prepares to embark on the next phase of his hockey career.

The centre from St. John’s will attend the rookie training camp of the National Hockey League’s Winnipeg Jets in early September, but if he ends up going the collegiate route, it will be with the University of New Brunswick Varsity Reds.

The 20-year-old from St. John’s, who was the second-leading scorer in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League last season with the Rimouski Oceanic, officially committed to UNB, signing a letter of intent this week.

Boland admitted the fact that the Varsity Reds are two-time defending national U-Sports champions only helped attract him to the school.

“I watched the final game (this spring), as UNB hoisted the U Cup, while I was still in Rimouski,” he said in a release from the team. “I always want to surround myself with winners, and with the history of this program, I believe this is the best spot for me.”

Still, whether Boland acts on the commitment could depend on how he fares in his tryout with the Jets.

He’ll travel to Manitoba Sept. 6 and a day later, will depart with other would-be Jets for a pre-season rookie tournament — the 2017 Young Stars Classic — in Penticton, B.C., involving all four Western Canadian NHL organizations — the Vancouver Canucks, Edmonton Oilers, Calgary Flames and the Jets.

His performance in the tournament could determine if Boland — who was never selected in the NHL Entry Draft — receives an invitation to Winnipeg’s main camp later in the month.

Boland will leave for Winnipeg from Fredericton, N.B., where he began working at the Varsity Reds’ summer hockey school this week.

That he committed to UNB is not surprising. Boland had been taking online courses through the school while playing for Rimouski, and has been linked to the Varsity Reds for the last two months.

There is also a family connection to the school.

His cousin, Trevor Boland, played for Varsity Reds and is UNB’s all-time regular-season goal-scoring leader, with 79 tallies in 99 games played over four seasons in the early 1990s. He also had 62 assists.

“UNB has been a school and a program I’ve known about most of my life,” said Boland, who played four seasons with the Oceanic, recording 97 goals and 115 assists in 246 regular season games.

Last season, he had 48 goals and 55 assists to lead the Oceanic, and finish as runner-up in the league’s scoring race to Gatineau’s Vitali Abramov by a single point.

“I’ll bring my offensive ability and can contribute in any role the team needs me to,” Boland said in a release from the Varsity Reds. “Positivity and a team-first mind-set are the way I approach every aspect of the game.”

UNB head coach Gardiner MacDougall is excited to have Boland in the fold.

“He’s a highly skilled player that makes plays and is a difference-maker when he has the puck,” says MacDougall. “He’s improved every season in the Quebec League, something we like to see in players, and he has a knack to score and create offence.”

The Varsity Reds’ roster features two of his former Oceanic teammates, Christopher Clapperton and Peter Trainor, who was once his roommate with Rimouski.

UNB opens its pre-season on Sept. 15, and will finish up its exhibition schedule later in the month when it travels to New England to take on the Boston College Eagles, one of the NCAA’s top men’s hockey programs.

The Varsity Reds’ regular-season home opener is Oct. 4.

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