HUMBOLDT — Fueled by a desire to learn and a strong work ethic, Matthew Van Blaricom leaped into the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League this season.
The talented 16-year-old forward from Southey jumped from the U18 AAA level to the Junior A ranks partway through this campaign. Since joining the Humboldt Broncos, the 5-foot-10, 170-pounder has scored 12 goals and recorded 23 points in 30 games. As of March 7, he sat 17th among SJHL rookies in scoring. He has played fewer games than all of the players ahead of him.
“Matthew is a player who has high-end skill with the puck and has an elite shot,” Broncos head coach Scott Barney said. “He’s came in like a sponge and has soaked up all the information needed and more. He’s a player who doesn’t shy down from anyone on the ice.”
It is not just opponents and fans who have taken notice of Van Blaricom’s success this season. He drew interest from university hockey scouting staffs. Van Blaricom recently committed to study and play at Michigan Technological University. The Huskies hockey team helped develop such players as Hockey Hall of Famer Tony Esposito, Jarkko Ruutu, and John Scott on their way to the National Hockey League. The Houghton, Mich. institution, which has an enrollment of about 7,000, also has a strong academic reputation.
“I was looking for a school with great schooling along with a very good hockey program, a great fan base and campus, and a smaller school is something I felt more comfortable with,” Van Blaricom said. “MTU checks all those boxes. They have a very good program to help me get into a dental school, which is what I’m studying for. They have all the classes I require and the degree I will get from there will be well recognized.”
In 2020-2021, Van Blaricom was limited to four games for Balgonie-based Prairie Storm. It was his second season with the U15 AA team. Last season he joined the U18 AAA Tisdale Trojans.
“Matthew came in as a 15-year-old last year and continued to improve each month,” Trojans head coach Dennis Kubat said.
Van Blaricom was the Trojans’ third leading scorer last winter with 36 points, including 14 goals, in 42 games. Before joining the Humboldt squad, he had 13 goals and 22 points through 17 contests this season.
“He is a self-motivated kid, who had a vision on what he wanted to do with his hockey career, he put in the work, on and off the ice, and all the credit goes to him,” Kubat said. “I am very happy for him and the success he is having.”
Van Blaricom believes his time in Tisdale helped his game.
“Playing for the Trojans helped me build confidence and leadership,” he said. “Both years I played we were not the strongest, but it gave me a chance to step up and show my talent and work ethic along with building my own confidence and leadership.”
Then came the time to move to Junior A. On Nov. 9, in his first game with the Broncos, he lit the lamp. In his third contest at the SJHL level, Van Blaricom recorded a goal and an assist for his first multi-point outing. Twice this season he has scored two goals in a game.
Van Blaricom said his hockey IQ has helped him with the transition. He has also appreciated his teammates.
“I have enjoyed meeting the guys on the team and being able to develop and play alongside skilled and more mature players helping me build skills on and off the ice,” he said.