While the Long Island University Sharks’ final record of 10-23-3 isn’t where Whistler’s Welsh brothers hoped it would be at the start of the season, it still represents a slight improvement for the school’s brand-new hockey program, which just finished its second-ever year.
The team improved from a .231-win percentage to .338 this year and had some memorable moments, such as beating a very strong team from Miami University. But the best part of the season for the Welsh brothers—and the part they’ll look back most fondly on when their hockey careers are over—was having the rare opportunity to play with one another at the NCAA level.
“Looking back, it was really special. I don’t know a lot of guys will ever really get that opportunity, so we’re both really glad that we did,” said Nolan. “We were linemates pretty much the whole season. We love playing together. We think the same way when we’re on the ice, so it was pretty special being able to compete with him out there.”
In his rookie season last year, Nolan finished first on his team with seven points in 12 games. Heading into this season, with the addition of multiple older transfer players—like brother Tyler who spent the previous three seasons at Yale University—Nolan’s production dipped a bit, finishing the season with 13 points in 33 games.
Tyler, on the other hand, finished second on the team with 25 points in 27 games, despite missing the first month with a knee injury he sustained in the first game of the season.
“So it was kind of a bit of a rocky start, but after I came back it started going pretty well. I was given quite a big role and opportunity there … [It] was nice to be able to play a lot as an older guy and be able to put some points up,” said Tyler, adding that he was happy to take on a bigger role with the new club.
“I definitely feel like if we had a season for my senior year at Yale, I probably would have been in that role too, but our season got cancelled so it was nice to be able to step into that role with a different team and be more of that leader and older veteran presence and more the go-to guy for offense and stuff.”
When the season wrapped up, with his college career now over, Tyler got the opportunity to make the jump to professional hockey with the Newfoundland Growlers of the ECHL, where he played in nine games and put up two goals and an assist to close out the season.
Now back in B.C., Tyler hopes to enjoy the summer offseason and take some time to relax before getting back to training for the upcoming season, where he hopes to continue his professional career.
While he’s unsure of where he will be playing next year, whether it’s back in the ECHL or overseas in Europe, he’s just excited to start the next chapter of his hockey life.
“I’m looking forward to playing professionally and seeing where that can take me. I feel like it’s a lot of kids’ goals as a young hockey player to be able to make money and play this game as your job, so I’m really looking forward to that, wherever that it is,” he said.
“It’s a bit more of a waiting game to see what my options are, but I think playing over in Europe would be a pretty cool life experience. Even beyond the hockey, just being able to travel over there and experience new culture and everything like that.”
Meanwhile, Nolan is also back in B.C. for the offseason, and plans to head back to Long Island for his Junior year at LIU.
And with the loss of the team’s top two scorers from last season, Nolan has his sights set on taking a step forward into a bigger role for his team.
“We’re looking to add a lot more top guys for next year. And I think I’ll have an even bigger role on the team next year, so I’m excited for what the next season holds,” said Nolan.
“I think my role changes and I’ll probably be relied upon more to be the guy to put up some points. Kind of just more responsibility. It’s not like I wasn’t getting the opportunity last year, but with those guys leaving, I need to be the guy to fill that role.”