Former Kootenay Ice defenceman Tanner Faith (above) has committed to the University of B.C. Thunderbirds men’s hockey program.

Former Kootenay Ice defenceman Tanner Faith (above) has committed to the University of B.C. Thunderbirds men’s hockey program.

Former Ice defenceman Tanner Faith commits to Thunderbirds

Former Kootenay Ice defenceman Tanner Faith is headed for CIS hockey as he joins old teammate Austin Vetterl & the UBC Thunderbirds

Former Kootenay Ice defenceman Tanner Faith has decided to pursue a post-secondary education and CIS hockey career.

The 20-year-old Faith committed to the University of British Columbia men’s hockey program Tuesday afternoon. The Thunderbirds announced the signings of Faith, along with Carter Popoff (Vancouver Giants) and Joseph Carvahlo (Prince George Cougars) via press release.

Earlier in the summer, the Thunderbirds added former Seattle Thunderbirds captain Jerret Smith.

“I chose UBC because of the school’s emphasis on academics, the strong hockey and sports programs, and having the opportunity to live in a beautiful city like Vancouver,” Faith said in the release.

A native of Wilcox, Sask., Faith was selected by the Kootenay Ice in the second round (33rd) of the talent-laden 2010 WHL Bantam Draft and went on to play 89 regular season games with the club over the span of three injury-shortened campaigns (2012-13 to 2014-15).

The 6-foot-4, 218-pound blueliner was dealt from Cranbrook ahead of his final year in the WHL. With the Ice facing a 20-year-old crunch, the former selection of the NHL’s Minnesota Wild (2014 — fifth round, 139th) was moved to the Moose Jaw Warriors in exchange for a conditional fifth-round pick that eventually became a fourth-round selection at the 2016 WHL Bantam Draft.

His final campaign in the WHL ended up being one of career proportions, as Faith established new highs in games played (59), goals (three), assists (21) and points (24).

“It continues to add to our talent level, our depth and our group of quality people,” said Adam Shell, head coach of the Thunderbirds, in the release. “These are four guys who are excellent people, students, want to be at UBC, and can play. They check off all four of the criteria. We are looking forward to them having long careers at UBC.”

Faith went unsigned by the Wild this summer, rendering him a free agent. He wasn’t the only former Ice to go unsigned this offseason after being drafted by an NHL club as the St. Louis Blues opted not to ink speedy sniper Jaedon Descheneau after selecting him at the 2014 NHL Entry Draft (fifth round, 124th).

“I think they are always surprised by the length of the schedule, even though it’s far less games from the WHL,” Shell said. “The addition of the course load, living on their own, and the intensity of Canada West hockey is picked up fast by some of the guys, while others it can take a bit of time.

“As long as they find their academic wings, we will be happy. For us, it’s a long-term process. It’s a four- or five-year plan as opposed to immediate success.”

Faith joins former Kootenay Ice teammate Austin Vetterl, who joined the Thunderbirds for 2015-16. The native of Surrey went on to register nine goals and 21 points in 28 regular season games to finish third in Thunderbirds scoring during his rookie CIS campaign.

Faith isn’t the only former Ice player to decide on a CIS career this offseason as Ryan Chynoweth (2013-14 to 2014-15) committed to the University of Lethbridge Pronghorns last week. It has also been reported that goaltender Wyatt Hoflin (2012-13 to 2015-16) has committed to the Mount Royal University Cougars, but the team has yet to make an official announcement.

The Thunderbirds finished the 2015-16 campaign sixth in Canada West with a record of 11-13-4, good enough to claim the final playoff spot in the conference.

The 2016-17 Canada West men’s hockey season is set to begin Oct. 7 when Faith and the Thunderbirds visit former Ice forward Levi Cable and the University of Saskatchewan Huskies.