For a sextet of Terriers, playing in the Royal Bank Cup in Vernon was a chance to play a little bit closer to home, since they were each born in Canada’s Pacific province.
Riley Medves hadn’t really expected to get a chance to actually play in the RBC, being the back-up to everyday netminder Kale Thomson, but was ready when called up in Game Two of the round robin against Vernon when Terrier head coach Trent Cassan decided to make a goaltending change with the score 5-0 for the Vipers.
“Obviously it’s not the way you like to get in the nets,” said the Nanaimo, B.C. product, “but I felt good once I got in there.” He said coming into a situation like that, that he had only one goal in mind “to give the boys a chance to come back.”
And the boys almost did come back.
“Two more minutes we would have,” chimed in Josh Ellis, who hails from Kelowna, B.C., adding,”as it was we had two posts”.
For Medves, getting to play was great with his grandparents from Salmon Arm in the building along with other relatives.
“And my girlfriend surprised me and came out too,” he said with a smile.
Medves said he had played in the Vernon barn before, just not hockey.
“I played lacrosse here,” he said, adding he was a goaltender in box lacrosse as well, and that a provincial tournament was held in the arena. “Lacrosse is my second favourite sport next to hockey.”
Then there is Riley Hunt from Revelstoke, B.C., who had played many games in the venue.
“It’s cool. I played here for over a year,” he said, adding “it’s exciting to play in the RBC and get the opportunity to come back here.”
Having played with the Vipers, there were many who were in the rink that were still supportive of the Terrier forward.
“There are lots of people that I know in the arena,” he said, adding his supporters include not only family, but his former billets who he still spends summers with, and friends made while on the Viper roster.
The friends included a few players on the opposing bench in Game Two.
“I still have some friends on the team,” said Hunt, adding that friendship did not extend to the 60-minutes on the ice.
Vernon is near home for Ellis as well.
“It’s awesome being just a half hour away from home,” he said.
Cortlan Procter has played in the Kal Tire Arena in Vernon before, as he hails originally from nearby Kelowna.
Playing in Game One of the RBC was a big moment for Procter, who said “it’s a pretty surreal feeling to move half way across Canada to play hockey and end up back here in the RBC.”
Coming from the area, Procter said he has seen “a lot of family and good friends” during the week. “I can’t take 10 steps without bumping into somebody I know.”
Ellis said since he has played in Yorkton the last two seasons his family hasn’t been able to watch him play, and the RBC is their opportunity to see him in action again.
Among the family watching was Brendan Ellis, Josh’s brother. Josh said it had been some time since he has played further into spring than his brother, who played at Merrimack College and then with the South Carolina Stingrays in the East Coast Hockey League.
So have the brothers talked a lot of hockey now that they’re in the same rink again?
“We try to leave hockey out of the house. We disagree on a lot of things when we talk hockey. We butt heads,” said Josh, adding it comes from having hugely different styles. “He’s a big tall ‘D-man’. I’m just a small, gritty forward.”
Ellis has been a spark plug at the RBC for the Terriers, but he is modest about it.
“I feel like I’ve played good, but there’s always room for improvement,” he said.
Terrier forward Matthew Cox hails from White Rock, B.C.
While he is happy to be back in his home province, the RBC is a bit different for him, since he is not a regular and must wait for an injury, or other reason, to maybe suit up for a game.
So Cox has focused on being the good teammate through the first two games at the RBC.
“It’s just the experience of being part of everything,” he said Tuesday, adding as a first year Junior he recognizes he has to play a role.
Cox said it is great to have family around, including seeing brother Trevor Cox who was a co-winner of the Top Defenceman Award this spring with the Medicine Hat Tigers of the Western Hockey League.
“That aspect is pretty cool,” he said, then added he did wish he “could be playing.”
Cox said while it is at times “frustrating” he remains positive, suggesting each experience gained with the team is a step to being a regular one day. “… You’ve always got to be ready.”
Proving that statement, Cox was in the line-up Wednesday for the Terriers win over Carleton Place.
Dallas Rossiter was in Cox’s position last season when the Terriers were part of the Western Canada Cup in B.C.. The Surrey, B.C., product watched from the stands last spring, but takes a regular shift on the blueline now.
“It’s a nice change. Obviously this is a pretty big stage. It’s the farthest you can go,” he said, adding the experience is made better having family and friends able to attend games.
Rossiter suggested that while it’s better to play than to sit, how he prepares and his attitude have not changed. It’s a case or working hard and making the best of opportunities.
In the end, the players were unanimous in wanting to enjoy the RBC experience as much as possible, in the home province, or not.
And the experience is almost bigger than life.
“Everything is hyped up,” said Cox.
“It’s almost blown out of proportion,” added Rossiter.
But Ellis reminded eveyone that they are now part of an event in which only five teams are left in contention from across the country.
“The goal was always for us to get here,” said Medves. “This is what we played for. It’s the end of the road.”