Former 100 Mile House goalie Clay Stevenson is headed to Dartmouth College after spending a season in the KIJHL and three in Coquitlam.
Coquitlam Express photos
Clay Stevenson has a message for current and future Kootenay International Junior Hockey League (KIJHL) players.
“It’s a great league to develop your play in, if you use it the right way,” says the 100 Mile House Wranglers alum, who recently wrapped up a three-year career with the B.C. Hockey League’s Coquitlam Express and has received an invite to the San Jose Sharks summer development camp. “Every program I feel has the ability to push their players to the next level. You have to really find the motivation within yourself to want to push forward as well. It’s not just going to come to you.”
This season with the Express, Stevenson established career highs in every statistical category, highlighted by 30 wins and a stingy 1.77 goals against average. His play earned him the BCHL’s Goaltending Award. He also shared the Wally Forslund Trophy with teammate Jack Watson. Stevenson described his performance as “something special.”
“I just tried to take my play and performance to the next level from the summer leading up to this past season,” says Stevenson, who is moving onto Dartmouth College where he secured a National Collegiate Athletic Association scholarship. “We had a great team in front of us goalies as well. Still, I tried to do my best and do my part.”
Stevenson earned his scholarship six weeks into his BCHL career. Communication began between his transition from 100 Mile House and Coquitlam. Dartmouth became more interested after watching him during the Lakeland Hockey Super Camp in Langley.
A motivator for Stevenson to play his best also came from the loss of his mother, Holly Stevenson, early in the season. It was important for Stevenson to not have people look at him and think about his personal situation ruining his career.
“I didn’t want that to happen. I put my head down and I had great support from my family,” he says. “I was just able to work even harder. Push through and treat those extra battles inside to have success this year.”
Stevenson says being older and more mentally mature helped him become a better goalie, as well as being physically stronger. He points to the mental side being the biggest key.
“I was just able to stay on point every time I was on the ice,” he explains. “Stay focused and just understand the position a little bit better. Get a little bit smarter in the way I moved. The things I was doing on the ice with my body.”
While talking about his KIJHL days – the Drayton Valley, Alta., native, who also grew up in B.C., spent the 2016-17 season with the Wranglers, posting 12 wins with a 3.12 GAA and .907 save percentage as a 17-year-old. Stevenson jumped at the chance to play in the KIJHL because he knew he would regret it if he didn’t. He wanted to play with and against older players.
“I felt like playing with them would help me raise my game higher because they know the game better than I do,” says Stevenson, possessing a mature mindstate at a young age. “They are stronger. There are guys that are 20. I wanted that different dynamic in my game. That’s one of the things that helped me develop in that league.”
Stevenson didn’t play minor hockey at a higher level in Chilliwack, the year before moving onto the KIJHL. He was scouted and Stevenson knew to get to the next level, playing junior B would give him the right opportunity.
Stevenson loved his time in the KIJHL, especially because of his billet family Chris and Crystal Dawn Langton, who made his transition of moving away from home for the first time easier. They supported him in everything he needed so he could achieve what he wanted to while with the Wranglers.
Wranglers coach Dale Hladun was also important to his experience. He always motivated and pushed Stevenson to be his best.
“He was hard on me and I think that was another thing that really helped me push myself forward,” he says. “When coaches get really mad at me, I don’t really shut down. I try to listen to what the message they are actually saying is. Sometimes when coaches are yelling at you, they are not actually mad at you, they are trying to get a message across to you. Try to receive that message. You can have a lot easier time playing the position.”
From 100 Mile House, to Coquitlam, and now Dartmouth in Hanover, New Hampshire, Stevenson will continue maturing and developing his game.