Last weekend was a big one for Duncan native Ben Berard.
On Friday, he committed to an NCAA Div. 1 scholarship at Cornell University, starting in the 2019-20 season. That night, he scored once in a 7-0 win by the Powell River Kings over his hometown Cowichan Valley Capitals.
The next night, he scored four times and added an assist as his Kings defeated the Caps 7-5, locking up B.C. Hockey League Player of the Week honours.
According to Berard, it was just a coincidence that the big game came a day after he locked up his college deal.
“I don’t think I was doing anything too different,” he said, crediting the four-goal explosion to “a bit of luck. My shot was finding the back of the net.”
He did admit that it does get him fired up to play the Caps, for whom he appeared in six games as an AP between 2014-15 and 2015-16 before he signed with Powell River.
“It’s always exciting playing Cowichan,” he said. “I grew up watching them.”
Cornell has been interested in Berard since he first started playing for the Kings at the start of the 2016-17 campaign, he said, and the interest was mutual. The Ithaca, New York school has a good relationship with the Powell River team, with four players from last year’s Kings team now skating for the Big Red. Although he did communicate with other schools, Cornell was his first choice.
“Cornell was always the one I liked the most,” said Berard, who plans to study business. “It has the best combination of hockey and school.”
Including two assists he recorded in a 7-3 win over the Victoria Grizzlies on Tuesday, Berard now has 27 points (13 goals and 14 assists) in 26 games this year after posting 31 points (13 goals and 18 assists) in 56 games as a rookie.
“I definitely feel like I’ve made an improvement,” he said. “I still want to keep growing before I go to Cornell.”
Berard played his minor hockey in the Cowichan Valley through the end of bantam, then moved on to a year with the major midget South Island Royals and another with the Shawnigan Lake School prep team. Capitals head coach Brian Passmore coached Shawnigan’s bantam team when Berard was playing prep, but has still gotten to know him, and is pleased to see his success.
“He’s a great kid,” Passmore said. “I’m happy for him to get a commitment. He hurt us on the weekend, but congratulations to him.”
Not surprisingly, Berard’s current coach in Powell River is also pleased to see him doing well.
“I think we’re not even close to seeing what he’s capable of at this level,” Kings head coach Kent Lewis said. “Continuing to develop and bringing that consistency every night will be important here because the next level at Cornell and in the NCAA will be a lot harder.”