Hockey: Matt Caria is T-Bay bound; but when can he suit up for Lakehead?

Forward Matt Caria will play for the Lakehead Thunderwolves, but it is just a matter of when.

Caria, a Sault Ste. Marie native who tallied 92 points in his OHL overage season, had been playing well as a rookie the ECHL (12 points in 14 games with Utah and Florida), but he was suspended by the Florida team on Monday. The Naples News reported Caria had left "to play collegiate hockey in Canada."

The question is when Caria will be eligible and suit up for the No. 10 Thunderwolves. David Kilfoil notes that since Caria only turned 21 earlier this year, he is "eligible to participate upon entry." (Thanks for the clarification, Dave.) That overrides the CIS rule that states an athlete "may participate in CIS competition one year from the date that the athlete last participated in a professional game or event in a sport."

One justification for hockey having that exception is major junior grads have to use it or lose it with their education package. If memory serves, it has to be accessed within 18 months of the player finishing his time in the CHL. That is something to keep in mind if people wonder how someone can play pro and CIS hockey in the same season; amateur and university are not synonymous.

Anyhow, it's likely just a matter of Caria enrolling for the winter semester. His debut could actually come Dec. 29 when Lakehead hosts Manitoba.

(In hindsight, common sense should have caused yours truly to clue in Caria would only come if he could play this season, especially since the 'Wolves are hosting the national championship.)
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  1. He is probably eligible to step right into the CIS without sitting. Checking I see that he was born Aug. 16, 1988 and played junior last season. Almost always a former junior overager can play the first term after junior in the minor pros, and then join a CIS team after Christmas.

    Speaking of the Florida Everblades, last week they had a notice that rookie Ben Breault had been "suspended" as he wanted to go play for a CIS school.

  2. Here's the relevant part of the CIS regulations: An athlete who has participated in any league classified by CIS as professional prior to December 31 of the year that athlete turns 21, and who has not participated in CIS hockey in the same academic year as his professional participation, shall:
    a) Not be charged with having consumed CIS eligibility, and
    b) Be eligible to participate upon entry

  3. Wow, Lakehead just keeps getting solid recruits. Dias, McDonald and Caria? They are going to be a really really strong force to contend with in the new year. The way Western has been playing it looked like they might run away in the west, but with this new crop, Lakehead may challenge for the top spot.

  4. To be fair, the 21-year-old pro rule is a special rule for hockey only, and is much discussed by us hockey-heads on HF Boards.

  5. As you guys have discussed many times. Post Christmas adds are like players for hire in baseball. High risk students, high maintainance athletes brought in by coaches under presuure for short term results. Most of these guys shopped around hard all over Canada and couldnt get blue chip cash or ice time. How can the ECHL have made them any better? Come on!!

  6. Dias, McDonald, and Caria give Lakehead another potent and instant line...which will elevate their scoring even more; which they need cuz their goaltending has been poor so far this season...

  7. Dias, McDonald, and Caria give Lakehead another potent and instant line which will give them more offense; which they will need because their goaltending has been poor this year...

    Lakehead has done well with second half recruits; Captain Jordan Smith was one as was CIS leading goal scorer Brock McPherson...

  8. Christmas recruits are not necessarily "high maintainance" or "short term" answers. Some if not most get their degrees. Most of these guys want to give pro a chance and the CIS rules give them half a year to do so before they have to make up their mind. If they try pro first and then see the writing on the wall, they come to school. If they think they have a shot, they stay.

    Caria and Diaz are both good pick ups and will make an impact for LU. Good for will still be there after their university stint.

  9. I would agree that all Christmas recruits are NOT lumps of coal ... many of them become good student-athletes who just wanted a taste of pro hockey for a couple of months before finally deciding that school is the best place for them.

    If you look just at UNB, John Scott Dickson is now in is fifth (actually fourth and half) year after coming in at Christmas after playing ECHL. He has spent most of his career with the V-Reds on the first or second line and is the team's top penalty killer and shot blocker. Luke Lynes came in after Christmas just last season, and became a regular. On the other hand, Darcy Tuplin came in a few years ago and only lasted the one term (semester).

    It would be an interesting project to track the retention rate of players who come in at Christmas. Many coaches have told me that they are reluctant to bring those guys in, as it can disturb the team chemistry. On the other hand, if you've had say forwards get season-ending injuries, it is an easier sell.

    Don't forget, like in UNB's case with Dickson, many of these players were recrutied out of Junior by a CIS team, and committed to come to school if they didn't get a pro contract. Smart coaches atay in contact and may able to convince players after a few months on the pro buses that school is where they belong. And yes, sometimes guys like Lynes are not on your radar and fall in your lap.