In 2015-16, KIJHL alumni Riley Spraggs and Michael Hails helped the Lindenwood University Lions men’s ice hockey team win the 2016 American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA) Division I National Championship with a 2-1 victory over Iowa State.
Hails, a freshman goalie, had such a strong performance that he was selected as the Most Valuable Player at the ACHA National Championship.
“He was a guy that we counted on all year long. When it came down to the nitty gritty, even in the league finals, you have to win the games to move on,” said Spraggs, who grew up with Hails in Coldstream, B.C. “If you lose you are done. You see a lot of upsets and things like that, and Hails was on his head the whole time.
“He was completely zoned in,” Spraggs continued, “he knew what he had to do, and he knew that he was going to do it, and he delivered every single game. We knew we could count on him and yeah, he was lights out.”
Six years later their team was inducted into the Lindenwood Athletics Hall of Fame on Jan. 29, 2022 with three other athletes and the 2015 gymnastics team.
“It was really amazing. It’s not really something that you think about once you win the championship, and then you move on,” said Spraggs, 30, who made his KIJHL debut with the Castlegar Rebels, then played 93 regular season games with the Revelstoke Grizzlies and another 26 playoff games. “You start doing different things in life and then you get an email one day saying ‘Hey, you’re gonna be inducted in the Athletics Hall of Fame.
“It’s kind of a pretty surreal moment,” Spraggs continued, “it brings back a lot of memories and you kind of relive those good times we had in college and an opportunity to see everybody in St. Louis was pretty amazing, and it was nice that we were able to do that.”
Spraggs played two seasons at Lindenwood University, which is based in St. Charles, Missouri, 15 miles outside of St. Louis. He transferred from the University of Central Oklahoma, where he played for two years.
The Athletics Hall of Fame ceremony was held on campus at the J. Scheidegger Center for the Arts. When the Lions played, the team was invited down to ice level to be recognized. Hails wasn’t able to attend the ceremony.
“They did a video on each person and each team that was being inducted and had one representative from each team go up and speak with the president of the University and answer a few questions about what it was like being on the team and all those types of things,” he said, adding they got to tour the new facilities, see the new rink and dressing room, where they signed their names on a board with the Lions logo on it. “It was just really cool being around all the guys and kind of reliving all those moments we shared together years prior.”
What made the Lions a special group is the fact coming into the season, the players knew they had the right mix to win the championship. The right coaching staff. Spraggs said there was good cohesion, even when things went sideways or they hit tough stretches. The group always learned how to bounce back from that and find a way to make that not happen again.
“We were very resilient, very determined,” said Spraggs, who lives in South Florida and works as a senior IT recruiter. “We always had the idea that this was the year we’re going to the finals.”