It may not be the NCAA, but former Langley Hornets defenceman Justin McLaughlin doesn't mind. Last season, McLaughlin was a key member of the Lindenwood University squad that was narrowly beat out for the 2008 American College Hockey Association Division I Championship.
The ACHA flies under the radar in Canada, but the league provides scholarship and playing opportunities to dozens of former BC Hockey League players each season.
McLaughlin is entering his Senior season at Lindenwood, which is a perennial Division I powerhouse based just outside St. Louis, Missouri. He sandwiched his freshman and junior seasons around a year playing near home for Simon Fraser University.
His re-arrival with the Lions helped spur a 31-9 regular season record and a successful tournament run. Lindenwood fell to Illinois in the National Championship Game.
“We had a pretty tight team and a good mix of guys,” McLaughlin says. “We were pretty young, but we were good the whole year. The only team we had a lot of trouble with was Illinois.”
McLaughlin is just one of a number of BC Hockey League graduates playing for the Lions; former Chilliwack Chiefs Henri St. Arnault and Steve Balint and ex-Quesnel Millionaires forward Carson Hamill are also on the team.
“The hockey isn't as physical, but it's good,” McLaughlin says. “There's definately a big difference between the good teams and the bad teams, but there are some really good ones.”