Going into the crowded corner of a hockey rink and emerging with the puck on his stick is Liam Blackburn’s speciality.
It’s also a big reason the West Kelowna Warriors’ play-making forward leads the B.C. Hockey League in points so far this season.
“I like to spend 95 per cent of my time in the corners, I love battling, winning pucks and then finding my teammates,” said Blackburn. “I feel a bit like a quarterback…it’s a role I’m happy with.”
Through 14 games it seems to be working, as the 5-foot-10, 167-pound centre from Prince George is averaging an even two points per game—eight goals and 20 assists.
In his sophomore season in the BCHL, Blackburn expected his offensive game to take a step forward—but leading the league was even a notch above his expectations.
“I guess it’s caught me a little by surprise,” said Blackburn, 18, who had 43 points last season with West Kelowna. “I wanted to come in and be one of the top guys here, but to be at the top of the league, I can’t really say I thought that would happen.
“But it’s nice to be there and I guess it’s a reward for the work I’ve put in.”
Warriors’ head coach and GM Rylan Ferster knew Blackburn would be a key contributor on the scoresheet this season.
In Blackburn’s varied skill set, Ferster said nothing stands out more than his adeptness with the puck.
“His vision is very good and so is his work ethic,” said Ferster. “But what really sets him apart is that he’s got such a good stick…maybe the best I’ve seen as a coach. It’s maybe not the quickest, but he’s able to handle the puck in tight quarters and it just seems to stay on his stick.
“He makes players around him better.”
Blackburn’s abilities have also caught the eye of the University of New Hampshire program. He has committed to UNH and will suit up for the Wildcats in either the fall of 2015 or 2016.
As for the immediate future, Blackburn and the Warriors will take on the SilverBacks in a home-and-home set this weekend, beginning Friday in Salmon Arm.
The clubs will meet again Saturday at Royal LePage Place. Face off is 7 p.m.