For a guy who brings so many intangibles to his team, Matt Hoover sure piles up the stats, too.
The Nanaimo Clippers’ top-line centre has 36 goals, and could reach 40 if he keeps up his pace. It would be a rare achievement. And it would be only one facet of what Hoover brings to the team.
“You can talk about almost closing in on 40 goals,” said Mike Vandekamp, Clippers coach. “I see a guy that leads our team in hits, is amongst the leaders in shot blocks, leads the team in plus-minus, leads the team in faceoff percentage, is the most vocal player in the dressing room, hits harder than anyone, gets in a few scraps, gets under the skin of his opponents, is a likeable kid around the rink. Boy, he’s been as close to the full package for us as a player can be.”
It’s fair to say that the 5-foot-9, 175 pounder from Brantford, Ont., has exceeded any expectations the Clippers had when they traded for him. It was actually a deal that the Clips, in some ways, were forced to make because they had too many 20-year-olds. Vandekamp, who watched numerous Kingston Voyageurs playoff games online last spring, saw a tenacious, smart player and brought him to B.C. in a blockbuster deal that sent Anthony Rinaldi and Jacob Hanlon the other way.
The BCHL wasn’t always in Hoover’s plans. He secured his NCAA Div. 1 scholarship to Canisius College while still in prep school, and decided to play a year of junior A in his home province of Ontario before moving on to college. When he ended up pushing back college hockey one season, it created opportunity.
“It was a league that I wanted to play in…” Hoover said. “The distance factor was a little tough for me and I didn’t know if I wanted to, but for the opportunity that I thought I was going to get and have experienced so far, I’m glad I took the opportunity.”
He’s thrived on the Clippers’ top line with Devin Brosseau and Sheldon Rempal since opening night, and each of those guys has helped the others excel. Hoover said his linemates have set him up for some tap-in goals. But he’s also surprised even himself with some solo-effort goals as he scores more than he did at any level since minor hockey.
Reaching 35 meant a lot, he said, and he’s thought about 40.
“Obviously you just try and take one game at a time and focus on getting wins, but if I can chip in a few goals and hit that milestone before the end of the season, that would be awesome,” he said.
And his other stats, the ones his coach loves, won’t fall by the wayside. Hoover said being good in different aspects of the game is just part of being a well-rounded player. He recognizes that at higher levels of hockey, he might not always play in all situations, so he wants to make the most of his current roles.
“I’m loving it and glad that I’m getting the opportunity to develop my game,” he said.
GAME ON … The Clippers host the Cowichan Valley Capitals on Wednesday (Feb. 10) at 7 p.m. at Frank Crane Arena.