It’s been a whirlwind week for Travis St. Denis and the Penticton Vees as the RBC Cup champions returned to a hero’s welcome, complete with parade, party and yet another honour for the Trail native on Wednesday.
The city of Penticton turned out in droves to congratulate a team that finished off a dream season in dramatic fashion, coming back in the final period of the final game, to win the national championship in the final minute, on a St. Denis setup to Joey Benik.
Not only did St. Denis win the title, but he was also recognized as the Player of the Week by the BCHL, and then at the celebration, the hard-working forward was also named Most Inspirational Player for the Vees.
“It’s an unbelievable feeling,” said St. Denis. “We worked hard all year for it, so it’s definitely a dream come true to win a national title.”
After a 42 game winning streak, with only four losses in regulation (one to the Trail Smoke Eaters), and a virtual sweep of the BCHL final and Doyle Cup, the top ranked junior hckey team in Canada looked poised to continue its rampage through the RBC tournament in Humboldt, Sask.
“I think being ranked number one going into the tournament, there’s a little pressure but I don’t think it affected our team at all.”
“We were a little bit worried but we just refocused and regrouped,” said St. Denis. “We got a strong group of guys so once we got our first win, we just went on a roll.”
And roll they did, reeling off four straight victories with every game a must-win match. St Denis and his line’s performance was a critical factor in the Vees success. The former Smoke Eater led the Vees in scoring with a goal and six assists, and was named player of the game in two of the final four matches.
His opening goal in the RBC championship game, and incredible give-and-go with Benyk to win the game with 51 seconds remaining was the highlight of an incredible junior career for St. Denis.
“Being in the final game and being down 3-2 with about 10 minutes left. Just seeing our guys battle hard and tie it up and get the game winning goal and setting it up with a minute to go,” he said. “It was all a blur. It was a good give and go and Benik is an unbelievable player so if you get the puck on his stick he’ll put it in.”
St. Denis’s PoW nod from the BCHL and Most Inspirational, are definitely nice honours, “Especially in the last week of your junior career,” he said.
St. Denis’ career has been an interesting one. He played three years in Trail before requesting a trade that landed him in Penticton where he would go on to become a national champion. The 19-year-old finished his junior career playing 203 games, with 99 goals, 127 assists for a career total of 227 points. St. Denis also received a scholarship offer from Quinnipiac University in his final year in Trail and will join the team this year.
“It’s been unbelievable,” said St. Denis. “I mean its been a roller coaster, with ups and downs all over the place. Starting my junior career in Trail, 16 years old, I couldn’t ask to start in a better place than my hometown. I think this past year getting traded to Penticton, moving away from home and experience that life, it’s just made me a stronger person over all.”