Zach Rose had been generating some interest from NCAA Division 1 hockey scouts this season as a rookie goaltender in the British Columbia Hockey League, although he does acknowledge it was, “nothing too serious.”
That will probably change.
Rose, who hails from Paradise, backstopped Canada West to the 2017 World Junior A Hockey Challenge last weekend in Truro, N.S., making 35 saves in a 5-1 win over the United States in the final.
Rose, 18, was named the tournament’s MVP and all-star goalie.
“I’m hoping there might be more interest in me now,” he said.
Rose, who is tending goal this season with the Victoria Grizzlies of the BCHL, posted a nifty 1.58 goals against average and .942 save percentage through five games in Truro.
"As the tournament went on, I was getting more confident, obviously, but at the same time I was trying to stay humble and modest. My dad and grandfather always reminded me (that) no high is ever too big and no low is ever too low. I just tried to take a normal approach to each game.”
He opened the tournament on the bench, but replaced starter Mitch Adamyk of the BCHL’s Powell River Kings halfway through a 5-2 loss to the Czechs, stopping all nine shots he faced in that contest.
It was all Rose after that, as the CBR Minor Hockey Association product was in the nets the rest of the way for Canada West, which lost 2-1 to the States (Rose made 25 saves) in its second round-robin game, but then registered wins over Canada East (4-3 in OT, 18 stops) in the quarter-final and the Czechs (5-1, 26 saves) in the semis.
Canada West became just the second team in the 12-year history of the tournament to win gold after losing both of its preliminary-round games, joining the 2011 edition of Canada West.
“As the tournament went on, I was getting more confident, obviously, but at the same time I was trying to stay humble and modest,” said Rose, who is home for a couple of weeks for the Christmas holidays.
“My dad (Robert Rose) and grandfather (Johnny Williams) always reminded me (that) no high is ever too big and no low is ever too low. I just tried to take a normal approach to each game.”
Rose’s hockey journey so far has been an unconventional one. He left at 15 to play U.S. prep school hockey and attend school at Lake Forest Academy in the Chicago suburbs (Teddy Purcell of St. John’s spent a year at Lake Forest).
That came a year after he was cut from his AA bantam team in the Don Johnson Hockey League, despite making the provincial U-14 team.
“I was really down,” he said. “I didn’t see it coming. But as the year (in A level hockey) went along, I began to use that as a source of motivation, and I made some great friends along the way.
“So in the end, it all worked out.”
Rose spent three years at Lake Forest before catching the Grizzlies’ attention this season.
The youngest starting netminder in the BCHL, Rose is 10-10 on the year, with a 3.17 goals against average and .916 save percentage. Victoria is third in the Island Division at 18-14-3-2.
“Leaving home at 15 was tough,” he acknowledges. “I had my battles with homesickness. There’d be days I was doing homework and feeling pretty down, thinking of home.
“But it helps you grow as a person, and it’s certainly made the transition to junior a lot easier.”
The BCHL is a breeding ground for U.S. college hockey players. Two other Newfoundlanders, Colin Greening of St. John’s (Nanaimo) and Matt Kennedy of Mount Pearl (Victoria), played in the BCHL before landing hockey scholarships to Cornell and Arizona State (Kennedy has since transferred from Arizona to Boston’s Wentworth Institute of Technology).
Alex Newhook of St. John’s, who will turn 17 next month, is a teammate of Rose’s on Victoria. Newhook has committed to Boston College for 2019-20.
The Challenge featured the top junior A players from Canada — represented by West and East teams — along with the U.S., Russia, Czech Republic and Switzerland.
The Canada West roster was selected from players in the BCHL, and Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba junior hockey leagues.
The United States players came from the USHL, a Tier I junior league south of the border that is populated by many NCAA prospects, much like the BCHL.
“Junior A hockey across Canada is very underrated,” Rose said. “Look at Penticton and Vernon (two of the top three teams in the BCHL), virtually all of their forwards and defencemen are committed to NCAA schools.
“Look at the NHL draft. A lot of guys are drafted out of junior A (the BCHL had three players selected in the first round of the 2016 draft).
“I’ve watched Western Hockey League (major junior) games, and it’s great hockey. But I definitely think junior A teams could compete with those guys.”
NHL scouts from every team, Rose said, were in Truro for the Junior A Challenge.
Rose returns to Victoria just before the New Year to prepare a Jan. 2 game against the Cowichan Valley Capitals.
BCHL teams play a 58-game regular season schedule.