Late this past week, Waywayseecappo Wolverines forward Kris Bladen agreed to terms with the Liberty University Flames for the upcoming 2020-21 season. Liberty, which plays out of the ACHA Division I in Lynchburg, Virginia, went 33-4-0 last year, staying atop the ESCHL by 23 points over second place Stony Brook University.
Bladen, a 20-year-old product of Saskatchewan, joined the Manitoba Junior Hockey League’s Wolverines for the better part of the 2019-20 season, following a year-and-a-half of Alberta Junior Hockey League action, split between the Spruce Grove Saints, Calgary Mustangs and Lloydminster Bobcats.
“We are super excited to add Kris in the fall,” Flames head coach Kirk Handy said in a Liberty press release. “He’s a guy who will come in here and really be an excellent fit… both on and off the ice. From an on-ice perspective, he will be able to help us out on the offensive side of things. He’s got good speed, and he will blend in well with the other guys we’re bringing in as well.”
After putting up just two assists and 22 penalty minutes with the Bobcats to begin the 2019-20 season, the 5-foot-10, 170-pound forward was shipped to Wayway, where he dressed in 45 regular season MJHL games, compiling 17 goals, 25 points and 62 penalty minutes, before COVID-19 shut down the postseason.
Bladen has plans to study business and work towards a degree in environmental law at Liberty, while suiting up for the hockey team.
“It is very humbling to play at such a prestigious program,” Bladen said in the release. “I haven’t been on campus yet, but I’ve heard the facilities are first-class and Liberty’s fans are crazy from what I’ve seen online. I am really excited to play for such great fans… It’s been a dream of mine to play university hockey in the United States for a long time now, and I’m grateful for the opportunity.”
The Wolverines put together another strong campaign in 2019-20, going 32-21-7 for 71 points and a fifth-place finish. Past seasons had seen the team fail to reach the postseason, and Bladen was a large part of the team’s success in 2019-20. He picked up two power play markers, one shorthanded tally and finished second on the team with four game-winning goals.
“I am really excited about the opportunity to contribute to the team’s success and just make the biggest impact I can right away while learning from the older guys,” Bladen added. “I am pretty adaptable as a player, and I am really excited to get down there and to get to know all of them and find that chemistry.”