A pair of Bomber defencemen from last year’s squad will both be heading to USports hockey this season.
Rylan Thiessen and Cole Vardy, who were both Bomber assistant captains last season, have joined up with Canadian university teams for the coming year.
Thiessen will be a Brock Badger next season, joining the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) club as of June 15.
After playing parts of four seasons in the WHL with Lethbridge, Brandon and Swift Current, Thiessen started the 2020-21 season with the Bombers as a loanee from Brandon. The defender came back to the Bombers halfway through this past season, putting up 26 points in 33 games from the blueline. Thiessen added 10 points in 14 games during the Bombers’ playoff run and an assist in five games during the Bombers’ Centennial Cup bid.
Last season, the St. Catherines, Ont.-based Badgers went 10-9 during the regular season, made the OUA conference finals (losing to the Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières Patriotes) and the national university tournament. The club will have a new head coach this year - former NCAA Division I head coach T.J. Manastersky - and will have a new home arena, playing out of Canada Games Park next to the university campus.
“I chose Brock University shortly after being in contact with them. I knew I wanted to go somewhere east to further my hockey career and when I learned more about Brock as a school and hockey program, it made my decision very easy,” said Thiessen in a Bomber-issued statement.
Only one former SJHLer, ex-Notre Dame Hounds D-man Kyle Robinson, played for the team last season - no other players from the league are currently slated to join the club next year, aside from Thiessen.
Vardy will be heading back to his home province and reuniting with an old teammate, joining Nova Scotia’s Acadia University. Vardy’s scholarship was announced by the Bombers June 27.
Vardy wrapped up his junior career after three seasons with the Bombers, having played 83 regular season games in maroon and white. Vardy didn’t play during the team’s aborted 2020-21 season, but suited up in 40 games this past season, tallying up 23 points. Vardy also played 16 playoff games despite several injuries that would eventually take him out of the lineup for the last two games of the SJHL final series and the entire Centennial Cup.
Vardy, originally from the Halifax suburb of Hammonds Plains, N.S., will head to the same team that boasts former Bomber star and Memorial Cup winner Cole Rafuse, who has been part of the club for two seasons. During the pandemic season, Vardy took classes at Acadia and practiced with some of the team’s players while rehabbing a shoulder injury.
The Axemen, who play in Wolfville, N.S., have a trio of former SJHL players - Rafuse, former Melfort Mustangs defender Loch Morrison and ex-Notre Dame Hound Jack Flaman. A former Bomber prospect, forward Cole Nagy, will also be going to Acadia after four seasons in the WHL.
Acadia plays in the Atlantic University Sport (AUS) conference, where they had a 7-15 record last season.
Eight Bombers from last year’s team have received deals to play university hockey - defender Xavier Lapointe (RIT) and forwards Drew Kuzma (Lindenwood) and Jeremi Tremblay (Sacred Heart) are going to NCAA Division I teams, while two players, Gabriel Shipper (Bowdoin) and Cal Schell (SUNY-Oswego) are going to NCAA Division III. Yet others, including Thiessen, Vardy and captain Zak Smith (Dalhousie) will join USports programs.