Riley Hunt will be coming home this summer with a national championship to his name.
The Revelstoke minor hockey product helped his team the Yorkton Terriers win the RBC Cup as the top Junior A hockey team in Canada last week in Vernon, where he began his junior career three years ago.
“It’s awesome,” he said on Monday, the day after winning the championship. “Obviously winning a national championship is pretty cool, but doing it where my junior career started, it’s that much more important to me having family and friends there.
“It was a pretty cool moment.”
The Yorkton Terriers road to the RBC Cup wasn’t easy. The team lost its first two games of the tournament to the Toronto Lakeshore Patriots and host Vernon Vipers. That put them into a must-win situation in their next two games to advance to the semi-finals — a feat they pulled off by beating the Carleton Place Canadians and Dauphin Kings.
“All year we put ourselves in positions like that where we had to win games and come through when it mattered,” said Hunt. “The mindset in the dressing room didn’t really change. We just took it game by game.”
The Terriers defeated the host Vipers 6-3 in the semi-finals on Saturday to advance to the finals against the Canadians.
In the finals, the teams traded goals in the first period, but Carleton Place scored twice in the second for a 3-1 lead. They appeared to be heading for victory, but the Terriers scored two goals in a span of eight seconds with less than three minutes to go in the third to send the game to overtime. There, Derek Falloon scored the winner to give the Terriers the RBC Cup title.
“It was a huge goal by a 20-year-old playing his last junior game,” said Hunt.
Hunt picked up three assists for Yorkton in the tournament.
His journey there was a long and difficult one, with the second year of his junior career cut short early on by injuries.
The 5’7”, 170-pound Hunt began playing junior with the Vernon Vipers when he was 16. He picked up one goal and five assists in 49 games in his rookie season. The following year he was traded to the Salmon Arm Silverbacks, but missed all but four games with an injury.
He started this season in Salmon Arm, but was sent down to Junior B after putting up only two points in 18 games. With the Summerland Steam, he scored at a point-per-game pace and was given another shot at Junior A with the Terriers.
“The coaches have been great. I owe a lot to them,” said Hunt. “They gave me a great opportunity to develop my game and play in situations that I need to be playing in to move on to the college level. I’m playing with good players and in all situations — to contribute to a national championship like I did, as a junior hockey player, that’s all I can ask for.”
Hunt thought he would be playing for the RBC Cup this year, but he expected it would be as a member of the host Vipers, not with a Saskatchewan team.
“There has been adversity, there has been ups and downs,” he said. “Standing on the ice with a trophy above your head, it doesn’t end much better than that.”
Hunt thanked all his friends, family and former teammates for their support over the years.
“I appreciate the people in Revelstoke reaching out to me on Twitter and Facebook and what not. I wouldn’t be where I am today without them.”