It is hard to argue with the numbers.
Through the season’s first 37 games, Stephen Ryan is producing at a nearly two-points-per game clip as he leads the Pacific Junior Hockey League with 35 goals and 72 points.
By comparison, the respective leaders in those two categories last season were Richmond Sockeyes’ Daniell Lange, who had 34 goals and Delta Ice Hawks’ Mak Barden, who had 72 points to lead all junior B players in the league.
Ryan, a third-year forward with the Aldergrove Kodiaks, still has seven games to go in the regular season try and surpass those numbers in what he hopes will be his final season of junior B hockey. He is pace to finish with 41 goals and 85 points.
No player has cracked the 80-point barrier since Richmond’s Bill Smith did so in the 2008/09 season, finishing with 94 points. And the last 40-goal scorer was Mission’s Eric Friesen, who had 47 goals in the 2006/07 season campaign. Both players also had a handful of extra games as the regular season was 48 games, instead of the current 44.
Ryan posted modest numbers in his rookie and sophomore campaigns for the Kodiaks with 10 goals and 17 points that first year and then 19 goals and 51 points last season.
Those numbers were hardly a surprise given that the winger has filled a penalty killing and checking role ever since he has played rep hockey as a kid going through the ranks of the Langley Minor Hockey Association.
“That has pretty much been my role until the end of last year when I started putting up numbers,” Ryan said.
“Before that, I was always just a third-line type player.
“Just more confidence in my game, I guess.”
Ryan played in the PJHL all-star game last week (Jan. 13).
Brad Rihela, who is in his first season behind the bench of the Kodiaks, is not surprised by the success.
“I had heard he was a talented player and had some experience,” the coach said.
“And right from our first practice, I was impressed with his work ethic and I think that is a big part of where his numbers come from. He combines his skill with a great work ethic in practice and in games.”
“He is definitely a big part of what we have going on here,” Rihela added.
“And if something needs to be said, he will step up and say it.”
Ryan is quick to share the credit for his outstanding offensive numbers with his line-mates and the team in general.
The Kodiaks, thanks to an epic 21-game point streak (18-0-1-2) — which was one game short of being exactly half a season — sit firmly in control for top spot in the PJHL’s Harold Brittain Conference with a record of 28-6-1-2 and 59 points.
They have a 13-point lead over second-place Abbotsford with seven games to go.
Aldergrove has scored the most goals of the 10 teams in the league — averaging nearly five goals per game — and they are third in goals against.
“Just how deep and skilled our team is overall,” Ryan shared about the team’s remarkable run.
“And playing with those guys, they make it really easy out there,” he added about his line-mates Kenny Prato and Adam Callegari.
“Playing with those two guys really helps.”
The trio — all Langley Minor Hockey Association products — have combined for 73 goals and 180 points. Callegari and Prato are third and fourth in league scoring with 56 and 52 points, respectively. Prato is currently out indefinitely with a broken ankle, however.
Regardless of the role — whether he is scoring a goal or preventing one at the other end — Ryan is just focused on finishing up strong in what he hopes is his last season of junior B.
The 19-year-old has one season of junior eligibility remaining.
The 2012 Brookswood Secondary graduate is currently upgrading some courses and hopes to land permanently with a junior A squad next season and try and earn a post-secondary scholarship opportunity.
Over the past four seasons, Ryan has played a combined 68 games in the B.C. Hockey League, scoring twice and adding 11 assists.
He has suited up for one game with the Langley Rivermen earlier this season.
“He has got two points a game,” Rihela said.
“The sky is the limit.”