A pair of former standout players from the University of Victoria Vikes men’s hockey team have headed across the Atlantic Ocean and are using the experience they gained while in Victoria to continue playing the game they love at the professional level.
Both Shawn Mueller and Luciano Somerville took the ice for the Vikes for five seasons and ended their career wearing the blue and gold in the best way possible. Somerville, the Vikes captain, and Mueller, an assistant captain, led the team on an improbable playoff run last year during which they upset both the Simon Fraser Clan and the Trinity Western Spartans en route to winning the BCIHL title.
Mueller scored the game-winning goal with just seven seconds left to play to give the Vikes the 3-2 victory in the championship game.
“My five seasons playing for the Vikes really allowed me to grow as a player and as a person,” said Mueller. “I was able to meet and work with a lot of very passionate people at UVic, and winning the championship in my final season was the result of hard work and dedication.”
Playing 119 games in his time with the Vikes, Mueller recorded 157 points and led the team in scoring in four out of his five years.
Mueller now finds himself scoring goals in the Swedish second division, where he plays for Kalmar HC. The native of Kitimat, B.C. has been a key component on the squad currently playing in the playoffs trying to gain promotion through to the next division of Swedish hockey.
“The entire aspect of playing hockey and living in another country has really been an amazing experience,” said Mueller. “Learning some of the language and visiting different places has been one of my main goals while over here.”
Having earned a Bachelor of Science of degree during his time at UVic, Mueller credits the time he spent playing with the Vikes as something that was integral to his growth both on and off the ice.
“Personally, playing hockey at UVic for the Vikes taught me a lot,” said Mueller. “Commitment was a huge part of life at UVic, the ability to play the best I could on the ice as well as juggling the school aspect really taught me the importance of work ethic and what it takes to succeed. Being able to continue to play competitive hockey while going to school allowed me to improve and become a better player moving forward.”
Somerville who graduated from UVic with a combined major in Biology and Psychology, is also playing in the Sweden second division though his team, Avesta BK, competes in a different conference than Mueller’s.
“The level of play is definitely a step above from what I experienced with the Vikes at the university level,” said Somerville. “The pace of the game is a lot faster mixed with more skill rather than the aggressive, rough play that I was used to in university. Even though the ice size in Europe is bigger, I find that the decision making has to be quicker because of the speed of the game.”
Somerville was a leader on the team throughout his time with the Vikes and finished his university career with 59 regular season points.
“Being with the Vikes and going to university taught me a lot. It showed me that you have to be persistent, committed, and dedicated to reach your goals in life,” said Somerville. “Aside from these personable attributes that I developed over my five years, I also learned a lot about being a part of a very close team and how to be a leader.”
That memorable playoff run from one season ago was the perfect capstone to his time with the Vikes said Somerville.
“I gained countless friendships and made so many memories that I will carry with me for the rest of my life, especially during my final season where I led our team as captain to a BCIHL championship. This was the highlight of my university career with the Vikes, and it taught me how hard it is to win a championship and how much adversity you must go through in life to get to the top.”
A native of Port Alberni B.C., Somerville is taking full advantage of his time abroad to immerse himself in another culture.
“The biggest learning curve for me was definitely the language, at first it was tough because not everyone speaks English well,” said Somerville. “After about a month or so I was able to pick up quite a bit and now I can speak Swedish a lot more than I ever though I would be able to, so that’s pretty cool. Other than learning the language and culture, I am just here to gain valuable life lessons and learning experiences.”
While the chapter of his life that involved the Vikes may have come to an end, there can be no doubt that his time with the Vikes is something Somerville will treasure as he moves forward with his professional career.
“Moving on from a major part of my life – the Vikes and UVic – was one of the toughest things I have ever had to do,” said Somerville. “I am very excited for what the future has in store for me, but I will never forget the memorable years that the University of Victoria and the Vikes hockey team gave me.”
Mueller and Somerville’s former Vikes teammates will be trying to recreate some of the magic from their Cinderella playoff run last season when they begin the BCIHL playoffs.
The Vikes enter the playoffs as the fourth-seed and will take on the regular season champion Trinity Western Spartans in a best-of-three series this coming weekend.
The series will get underway at the Ian Stewart Complex here in Victoria, with puck-drop scheduled for 7:30 p.m. on Friday, March 9.