St. Marys native April Clark has signed a four-year CIA hockey scholarship at the University of Western Ontario in London.
Clark will play forward with the varsity women’s hockey team, the Mustangs, beginning in the fall of 2015.
Clark had several post secondary schools interested in her, including several in the U.S., but the 17-year-old DCVI student chose Western so she could study nursing.
She was offered a “full ride” at some schools south of the border.
“There were only a couple of schools in the U.S. that offered nursing,” April’s father Stan told the Journal Argus.
To ensure her scholarship at Western, Clark will have to maintain an 80 per cent average. At DCVI, she maintains an 85 per cent average.
Clark is looking forward to her career at Western.
“I want to be a nurse because my passion in life is to help people,” she said. “Western is one of the best nursing schools out there, and I want to get a good education as well as join a good hockey program.
“Everyone I’ve talked to says it’s a great opportunity going to Western. My sister (Kayla) went there. I’ll have to study a lot, but it will be worth it in the end.”
Second year with Junior Devilettes
This fall, Clark will start her second season with the London Devilettes’ Junior team, coached by Kelly Paton.
Previous to joining the Devilettes, Clark spent six years in the Bluewater Hawks ‘AA’ system after playing Novice boys hockey in St. Marys.
Paton says Clark has a high “skill set” and is a consistent player who is very versatile.
“April’s very creative with the puck and a very good play-maker,” Paton said in a recent interview. “She also has a really good shot and she plays well defensively.
“She understands both sides of the game, which is important. We can play her at centre or on the wing, so it’s nice to have her versatility, and she plays a lot of roles up front for us.”
The Junior Devilettes play their home games at the Western Fair complex. Paton, meanwhile, has also joined the Western women’s team as a player development coach, but her coaching duties with the Devilettes is still her main priority.
“My role with Western is more skill development; I won’t be on the bench with the Mustangs,” said Paton, who spent four seasons on a U.S. scholarship at the University of New Hampshire.
Invited to Ontario U-18 tryout camp
April Clark, meanwhile, has also received an invite to attend the Ontario Under-18 women’s tryout camp this summer. It’s a four-day tryout in Toronto, July 17-20, at the MasterCard Centre.
Clark’s ultimate goal is to make the Canadian Under-22 women’s team.
When she starts at Western next year, Clark will be on ice every day with the Mustangs. She is projected to be an “elite athlete” in the CIA.
Coach of the women Mustangs is Chris Higgins, a statistics professor with the Richard Ivey School of Business at UWO. He has his Advanced Coaching Certification together with nearly 20 years of experience coaching women’s hockey.
Higgins served as an assistant coach with the Mustangs men's team as well, between 2006-2008 on a full-time basis and on a part-time basis until 2010.
Higgins was also a founding executive member of the Provincial Women’s Hockey League, which is now considered one of the premier development leagues for CIS and NCAA teams.
Got coach’s attention
It didn’t take long for Higgins to be convinced that Clark was a player.
“I’ve been around women’s hockey for a long time,” the Western coach told the Journal Argus. “It doesn’t take very long to watch a player on the ice and to know whether they are an elite player or not.
“I went to watch the London (Junior) Devilettes in December of last year. April got the puck at her own blue line, skated past a couple of defenders and put the puck in the top corner of the net. That certainly got my attention.
“I think she has the potential to be a real star in our league.”
In the fall, Higgins will be starting his fifth season as Mustangs’ head coach.
The Clark family, meanwhile, would like to thank several local sponsors who helped her financially during her minor hockey career. They include: St. Marys Foodland, Remax, Action Health Care, Total Package Hockey, Heritage Renovations, River Valley Golf and Country Club, MCC Contracting and Veterinary Purchasing.
April is the daughter of Stan and Darlene Clark, of St. Marys.