Nicholas Jones isn’t about individual awards, but he gladly accepts them.
The Penticton Vees captain put up 11 points in six Western Canada Cup games, was named to the all-tournament team and top forward. The Edmonton native said it was nice to be recognized as top forward, though he didn’t feel that way about his play.
“I haven’t been at my best,” he said during the awards gala on May 5. “I have to be better for tomorrow (May 6).”
And he was, twice, with the Vees’ season on the line.
On May 6 against the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League champs, the Battlefords North Stars, Jones collected two assists in a 4-0 win. Then on Sunday, against the Chilliwack Chiefs in a 3-2 Vees win, Jones scored twice and picked up the helper on Grant Cruikshank’s winning backhand that found a hole between Mark Sinclair’s goal pads.
“The last two games I think were two of my best games I have played in a while,” said Jones following the game. “Especially tonight, I felt into the game. We were running three lines. I was a little bit more involved into the game. My linemates were playing well.”
Jones uses his speed to break into the opponent’s zone and has slick stickhandling that enables him to thread through defenders. His vision and patience give him the ability to find an open teammate and he possesses the skill to create his own chances.
Vees coach-GM Fred Harbinson agreed with Jones’ comment that he wasn’t at his best early in the tournament.
“I thought that Nic was doing a little too much and it’s just because he wants to win so bad,” said Harbinson, who is headed to his third RBC Cup championship in 10 years as coach. “A lot of times he puts the weight of the team on his shoulders. I thought the first few games looked a bit closer to the way he was playing at the beginning of the year when he was just trying so hard. And trying to do a little too much. I thought he simplified his game the last few games in Nic Jones fashion.”
His play in the final two games carried the “team on his back” said Harbinson, but it was the right way.
“When he plays the right way, everybody else follows,” said Harbinson. “He’s one of the best captains we’ve had. He’s got a personality that people want to follow. Hopefully we got a few more games to go together here with some great results.”
Jones was named the B.C. Hockey League player of the week for the week ending May 7.
The Brooks Bandits — Alberta Junior Hockey League and now WCC champs — dominated the awards gala.
Along with Jones on the all-tournament team were Bandits players Mitch Benson, Cale Makar, Parker Foo and Josh McKechney, along with Mackenzie Dwyer of the Portage Terriers. Foo was named the top scorer (seven points), Benson the top goalie (four wins, 1.51 goals-against average and .938 save percentage) and MVP and Makar, the top defenceman.
The WCC total attendance was 28,038 over nine days with the largest crowd being 3,021 between the Vees and Battlefords North Stars.
Jones and the Vees are playing in the RBC Cup in Cobourg, Ont. from May 13 to 21.