Mat Robson said playing for the Penticton Vees was the best decision of his life.
The Toronto native played in a career high 49 games and added another 32 in the playoffs (B.C. Hockey League, Western Canada Cup and Royal Bank Cup). He also topped his career high of 21 wins with the Toronto Lakeshore Patriots in 2014-15.
“It just led to the year that we had,” said Robson, who hit the road for home with a few teammates Thursday morning. “The battles, the ups and downs we had. It is part of every hockey season, but this group was extremely special. The resiliency that our group showed and the character to go through all those elimination games down the stretch. To be able to rebound after a stretch like in January.”
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Robson moves on to play for the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers and what he takes to help him move forward was the role he was given by Vees coach-general manager Fred Harbinson. The 20-year-old had never played so many games. Robson intends to take that and the game knowledge he gained onto the ice next year.
While Robson is excited to return home, as he is close with his family, he said it was tough to leave his Vees family.
“A little sweet and sour here at the end of it,” he said.
Nicholas Jones said his junior experience was great, especially the last two in Penticton. Among the highlights for him was their 23-game winning streak last season, which he described as “awesome,” then winning the Fred Page Cup and going to the Royal Bank Cup.
“All three Games 7’s this year were pretty cool,” said Jones. “A lot of do or die games that you look back on years from now. It’s pretty cool.”
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Jones, who started his junior A career with the Sherwood Park Crusaders, joined the Vees last season after starting with the Ohio State University Buckeyes in the National Collegiate Athletic Association. As he prepares to return to the NCAA, this time with the University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks, he feels he is a better player and has learned a lot with the Vees.
The Vees outgoing captain said the junior A franchise is a great organization with a great coaching staff, which he was able to learn from.
“The culture here is a winning culture. I’m excited to go from winning culture to winning culture,” he said. “You are always learning stuff when you are winning games.”
Jones joins Gabe Bast at the Fighting Hawks, where they will see familiar faces in Vees alumni Colton Poolman and Dixon Bowen.
“It’s exciting. Going down and being able to know some people there is good. It’s always nice to know some people down there and it will be fun,” he said.
Jones looks forward to continuing his development while looking to win a national championship.
Jones returned home to Edmonton on Thursday andplans to spend half the summer in North Dakota. While there he plans to take summer courses as he will study finance.
Along with Robson, Jones and Bast, Mitch Meek (Michigan Tech), Duncan Campbell (Queen’s University), Ryley Risling (Robert Morris University) and Taylor Sanheim completed their junior careers.