Friends find no escape from one another
The winding hockey paths of Austin Plevy and Braxton Bilous continue to intersect.
The pair, both 16 years old, first lined up as opponents, during their minor hockey days.
Plevy was a forward in the Langley Minor Hockey system, while Bilous was a defenceman with the Cloverdale Minor Hockey Association.
And with both players showing plenty of promise in their burgeoning hockey careers — Bilous recalls getting sent out to play the shutdown role against Plevy — there was plenty of opportunity for the pair to go head-to-head.
“I would always be put out to play against him, so I was always trying to get under his skin,” Bilous said.
Eventually, in their second year of bantam, Bilous and his family moved to Langley, and the pair became not only teammates, but friends.
After a season as teammates last season in the Major Midget Hockey League with the Valley West Hawks, their paths again went separate ways this season: Plevy staying home to play for the Langley Chiefs while Bilous went to the provincial capital for a spot on the Victoria Grizzlies blue-line.
They pair squared off last week at the Langley Events Centre — a 4-2 Chiefs victory — but in just a few seasons, the trend will continue and they will be teammates once again.
This time, they will join forces at Merrimack College, located just outside Boston.
“It’s a great school,” said Bilous. “I liked the small-school feel, the people were nice. Everything was top notch.”
Plevy had already been offered a scholarship and was weighing his options.
But once Bilous committed, that was enough to land Plevy too.
“There hockey program is great, the coaches are fantastic guys, and the school is in a fantastic area,” Plevy said. “I got that feeling. Merrimack just felt right.”
While both players have committed to the school — they also plan to join the team in 2013-14, one year after graduating — they cannot officially sign until their senior year of high school, which is next year.
So how does it feel to be 16 and have the next chunk of their life already figured out?
“It was hard to make my decision early because you never know what another school might offer,” Bilous said. “But I just think Merrimack was the best fit for me.
“And now I don’t have to worry about all the scouts watching me, I don’t have to worry about committing.
“I have the next six years of my life planned and it is great knowing that.”
Plevy said having his decision done takes the pressure off.
“It is nice having it locked down and knowing what you are doing with your future,” he said.
The pair are looking to finish strong as their respective teams ready for the start of the post-season later this month. Heading into play this weekend, Langley holds a slim three-point lead for third place.
Both admit their inaugural BCHL campaigns have been a learning experience.
Plevy has played in 51 games, with two goals and nine assists.
Bilous has had to fight to get into the lineup, playing just 33 games with three points.
It is usually harder for a young defenceman to make his mark than a forward.
“In training camp I was playing against guys five years older than me,” Bilous said. “I am used to being the one who is able to push everyone down. Now they are stronger and more skilled.”
Used to having a bigger role, it can be a hit to a player’s ego. Bilous knows his time will come.
“I know my role,” he said. “In order for a team to be good, everyone has to accept their role. Maybe this year is my year to learn.”