Photo credits to Chad Goddard Photography
Calgary, AB – The Calgary Mustangs are excited to announce that defenseman Nathan Walker has committed to the Marian University Sabres of the NCAA Division III's Northern Collegiate Hockey Association athletic conference.
Walker, who recently earned the Mustangs' 2017-18 Most Valuable Player and Top Defensive Player awards, played his first game with the Mustangs in the 2015-16 season after arriving via trade with the Alberni Valley Bulldogs of the BCHL. In 59 games played this year, Nathan set career highs across the board with 7 goals and 24 assists to go with an impressive career-low of 10 minutes in penalties. In his AJHL playoffs debut, Walker scored a goal and recorded 2 PIMs in 3 playoff games.
"Playing college hockey in the States has been a goal of mine for a long time now. Marian University offered a great fit for me on both the educational and hockey side of things," responds Nathan when asked about his decision of joining Salvatore Scalise and Yuri Chernichko at Marian. "The small class sizes and personalized learning environment was something I was really looking forward for in a school. Not to mention that the hockey program is top notch with a good tradition of winning."
"Being able to join my fellow teammates Yuri and Salvatore was also a plus for me. I've played with these two guys for the past two years and have a lot of respect for them both on and off the ice. I'm really going to miss the rest of my teammates next season. The success we were able to have was very exciting [to be a part of] and I hope that next year can be even better for them."
"The traits that drew Coach [Matt] Berger and I immediately to them was the character of each of them. Our staff is big on how players interact on the bench with their line mates and how they conduct themselves on the ice as professionals," says Sabres Head Coach Zach Gaynor of the Mustangs' trio. "We pride our program on the character and quality of the men that we have in our locker room. All three of them are leaders on their team and have helped Calgary have great success this year."
"We recruited all three of them for slightly different roles, but all three of them are excellent skaters, they all have a high hockey IQ, and all three will be a major benefit on special teams for us for years to come. Furthermore, we also play on an Olympic-sized ice sheet and to have players step into our program with that experience already is paramount to our successes early in the year. Playing on an Olympic-sized ice sheet takes a lot of time to adjust, and you also need players who can skate well enough and have the vision to succeed on the large ice."
Coach Gaynor also believes that their existing relationships will play a part in helping them adapt and adjust to the college way of life.
"I think that there is a large benefit to bringing three players from one program. First off, to have committed the leadership group from Calgary and now have them play a key role in Freshman leadership at Marian is crucial," elaborates Gaynor, who will be heading into his 2nd season at the helm of the Marian Sabres Men's Hockey program. "College can be overwhelming and sometimes players can get homesick, especially travelling long distances like these three. But the positive is that all three of them will immediately have two best friends when they arrive on campus, helping to ease that transition."
"Another reason we like to recruit players from the same junior team is that they know how to push each other to succeed on the ice. In juniors you spend a lot of time travelling on the road and time in the locker room as well, so you learn a lot about one another as people. We find that this helps us as a staff to learn how to get the most out of our players that we may not otherwise be aware of."
"We pride ourselves on being a family here at Marian and I want players who share in those same beliefs and core values. Recruiting leaders who possess that same construct accelerates our program's success year after year," concludes Coach Gaynor. "Coach Berger and I are very excited to have Yuri, Sal, and Nathan for next season, they will be a great fit for us. I know that they will all thrive here at Marian."
"Marian is getting one heck of a D-man. Walker is a great defenseman who's only getting better," adds Mustangs Head Coach and GM Tyler Drader. "It's great to see all his hard work has paid off for him."
"It's cool to see Savvy [Scalise], Yuri, and Walks decide to continue to play together with Marian. They're great friends and will make Marian better."
Walker is the fifth Mustangs player to commit to a postsecondary institution directly out of the organization this season; Ryley Smith, Ryan Stoynich, Chernichko and Scalise were the other four players who have commited to programs earlier this spring. In 146 career AJHL games over a span of 3 seasons, Nathan has put up a total of 12 goals and 35 assists for 47 points to go along with 66 penalty minutes. In addition to his 2017-18 MVP and Top Defensive Player awards, Walker also possesses a Top Defensive Player award from the 2016-17 season. A native of Calgary who developed in the Calgary Buffaloes Minor Hockey Association, Walker will join the Sabres program beginning in the 2018-19 academic year.
Congratulations to Nathan and his family, and from the entire Mustangs family we want to thank Nathan for his hard work and wish him, Savvy, Yuri and the Sabres all the best next year and moving forward!