Isn't technology wonderful?
University of Alberta hockey coach Eric Thurston got a text message from former Tri-City American Johnny Lazo on Saturday letting him know that he will be playing for the Golden Bears this fall.
"I'm excited about Johnny coming," said Thurston, who is entering his sixth year at the helm. "He's not a big guy, but he plays big. He's a quality person with a good family background."
Lazo verbally committed to U of A a week ago, but he put off signing on the dotted line until he met with University of Manitoba coach Mike Sirant last Friday.
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"I visited U of A a couple of weeks ago and I loved it," said Lazo, a native of Winnipeg, Manitoba. "I think it is the best decision for me. I think it would have been great to play at home, but U of A was the best fit for me."
Thurston met with former Tri-City captain Jarrett Toll over the weekend, but as of Monday, the defenseman still was undecided. He also is considering offers from University of British Columbia, University of Calgary and University of Manitoba.
"I'm still trying to make a decision," said Toll, who will major in engineering. "I'll know in the next couple of days."
Thurston would love to have both players.
"If we can get Jarrett too, we will be set for a long time," Thurston said. "(Toll) is a worthwhile investment. What he has been able to do in the classroom and play in the WHL is impressive."
Lazo, a center, is just one of many former Tri-City players to don the green and gold of the Golden Bears. That list includes Ben Kilgour, Dylan Stanley and Ian McDonald, who just signed with the Nottingham Panthers of the Elite League in Europe.
"Johnny will be a big help to our program," Thurston said. "The Tri-City players come well prepared; we've been very fortunate. Ben Kilgour was a great kid for us, Dylan Stanley was a quality player with great skills and has gone on to have a nice career in Europe. Ian was very good for last year. I'm looking forward to having Johnny come in."
With the quality of players he's gotten in the past, Thurston said he scouted the Tri-City Americans during the season.
"I always looked forward to their games," Thurston said. "They are skilled, they play a solid system an they are fun to watch. I was able to see the games in Kelowna and in Calgary. I really liked watching Johnny play and Jarrett's leadership skills are tremendous. You hardly notice him at times, but he's always there will a great pass and steady defense. It's a credit to Bob Tory. He's puts such a positive atmosphere on the Tri-City program."
Lazo finished with a team high 39 goals and 32 assists last season for the Americans. He also led the team in power-play goals (14) and short-handed goals (5) and had a plus-14 rating.
"We will put Johnny on a line with (Canada West MVP) Chad Klassen and Derek Ryan," Thurston said of planning for the upcoming season. "Those guys will be a real good line for us. Two Spokane and one Tri-City player on the same line -- that should be interesting. We'll also have Johnny on the power play and he will be a key guy 5-on-5."
Toll had a team high plus-26 rating for Tri-City, with six goals and 19 assists.
"When you bring in players from the WHL, you don't have to reinvent them," Thurston said. "They are mature and have great experience with the battles of the WHL and that really helps."
The Golden Bears finished 34-8-0 last season and finished second to the Saint Mary's Huskies in the University Cup championship.
"I think we can get back there," Thurston said. "If we can add key pieces to the puzzle like Johnny and Jarrett, that can help get us over the edge. They know what it's like to win."
Former Tri-City forward Colton Yellow Horn will return to the Central League's Allen Americans for the 2010-11 season. Yellow Horn, who joined the team in the middle of the season, had 35 points in 43 games and added 20 points in 20 playoff games.