Christmas came early for Riley Alferd.
However, instead of reaching under the tree and stumbling upon a great gift, he got to pick it himself.
The Penticton Vees forward has chosen the University of Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks to continue his hockey career in the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s Division 1.
His play and point production (17 goals, 34 points in 36 BCHL contests) this season helped his stock rise among scouts unlike last season (seven goals, 24 points in 57 games).
He chose the University of Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks because they are a “great hockey school.”
“They are doing very well (11-4-3 overall and 6-3-1 in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference). They just built a new rink (CenturyLink Center Omaha),” said Alferd, who plans to major in business. “I was just amazed by what I saw. I thought it would be the right place for me. It was a great fit.”
What the Mavericks love about Alferd is his skating and play making skills.
“Their team, they have a lot of small guys that play, they move the puck extremely well,” said Alferd, listed at five-foot-10, 170 pounds. “They thought I would fit really well.”
The two sides began talking in mid-October then sealed the partnership a week ago.
“I was pumped, I was really excited,” said Alferd.
The scholarship does come on the heels of a seven-game point drought, which previously never stretched more than three. However, Alferd doesn’t concern himself with points.
“I just want to come out and play my best every night,” said Alferd. “More important is the record we have. That means more to me than scoring goals. Obviously everybody likes to score goals.”
A big fan of former Penticton Panther Paul Kariya, Alferd wants to help the Vees win the RBC Cup.
While he hasn’t scored a goal since Nov. 29, Alferd feels he has been playing pretty well and added it’s not always about the points as long he is doing things right away from the puck.
Alferd contributed to the Vees’ 4-2 win Friday against West Kelowna, in which Patrick Sexton’s first goal of the season was the winner. On Saturday, Patrick Newell paced the Vees to a 7-2 win in West Kelowna with his first BCHL hat trick. The Vees got singles from Steen Cooper, Connor Chartier, Dakota Conroy and 16-year-old affiliate player Taylor Ward. Hunter Miska was rock solid, kicking out 25 of 27 shots, picking up his league-best 19th win.
Ice chips: The Vees go into the Christmas break with a 28-5-2-1 record, 12 points up on second place Vernon in the Interior Division. During the five-game stretch they were missing five and then six regulars and posted a 2-1-2-0 record. The Vees, still ranked third in the Canadian Junior Hockey League, aren’t back in action until Jan. 2 when they host the Vernon Vipers at the South Okanagan Events Centre.