There is nothing like finishing on top.
Ask Ben Brunette.
"I could not have envisioned having a better team and having such a good year of junior,' said Brunette.
"It was so much fun playing with these guys."
The 20-year-old wrapped up his final year of junior hockey capturing the Fred Page Cup as British Columbia Junior A Hockey League champions as the Penticton Vees swept the Alberni Valley Bulldogs in four games in the league final on May 18.
"I was really lucky to go to Penticton," said Brunette.
"The team, the coach was awesome. They helped me out a lot, it was one of the best years of my life."
But his journey to Penticton was a bumpy one.
The summer of 2022 was a summer of uncertainty for former North Bay AAA Trappers defenceman Ben Brunette.
The North Bay product missed a big chunk of the 2021-22 season playing in the United States Hockey League (U.S. Major Junior hockey) with the Waterloo Blackhawks.
The 2021-22 season was supposed to be Brunette's final season of junior hockey as he had an NCAA Division 1 commitment from the University of Massachusetts-Lowell for the fall of 2022. However, the NCAA school told him they wanted him to go back to junior for one more season and start his Freshman season in the fall of 2023.
"Not playing for a big part of last season was difficult, and not going to Lowell was unfortunate," said Brunette.
Brunette knew he could return to Waterloo where he only played in 15 games in his injury-shortened 2021-22 season.
"I was not sure what I wanted to do," admitted Brunette.
"I did not really want to play junior again in the U.S. and I heard Penticton was a good program. I thought it was great to have a chance to win a championship in my last year of junior."
Brunette, who also played junior A with the CCHL's Carleton Place Canadians and the Powell River Kings of the BCHL, had to request for his Canadian junior rights to be traded to Penticton in the summer of 2022.
The smooth skating defenceman, who won a Great North U18 title with the U18 AAA Trappers in 2019 alongside Team Canada goalie Ben Gaudreau, faced more adversity battling through more injuries this season. Brunette scored 6 goals and added 14 assists for 20 points in 40 games with the Vees but got hurt around Christmas.
"The coaches helped me out a ton and being around the team helped so much which helped me stay positive and I came back and got ready for playoffs," Brunette said about coping with injury this season.
After a memorable season of junior in Penticton, Brunette is back home and already preparing for his first season of NCAA hockey.
"I will be training a lot," he said.
"I will go train for part of the summer at Lowell and back home. Then going to school next year I am ready to go."