It was Devon McMullen’s last season with the SJHL’s Yorkton Terriers, but it’s a season he is going to be thinking about for years to come.
On Sunday, May 18 the Terriers won the RBC Cup in Vernon, B.C.—the national junior A championship—with Moosomin’s McMullen at the helm as team captain.
The road to the RBC Cup was one that saw the Terriers outlast 127 teams across the country, as they first won the SJHL championship, the Canalta Cup, then the Western Canada Cup against the Dauphin Kings to qualify for the national championship tournament in Vernon, B.C.
At the national level, the Terriers played four round-robin games, going 2-2 to qualify for the semifinal.
“It was pretty tough,” says McMullen. “It was a tournament that I think anyone could have won. We started out 0-2. We lost our first two games to some pretty good teams, Toronto and Vernon. And then the last two games, they were a must-win because if we had lost any of those two we would have been out of the tournament. We beat Carleton and then we beat Dauphin.”
Those two victories moved the Terriers into the national semifinal, where they defeated the Vernon Vipers with a score of 6-3 to move onto the national final against the Carleton Place Canadians.
It was a tough game that saw the Terriers lagging 3-1 with less than three minutes left in the game.
“They played a pretty good game against us because the first time we played them we beat them 3-1 and we used our speed on them,” says McMullen.
“When we played them in the final, we couldn’t get any momentum going or any speed going, and they got up 3-1 on us. Everyone was kind of a little tired. It was getting to the end of the tournament and everyone was tired.
“In that last period we just said we wouldn’t give up. In the dressing room, we said all year, all playoffs we’ve been in this position before. We had to do that against Humboldt a couple of times before in our league playoffs. And we just said whatever happens, we’re proud of what we’ve done already. So why not get a little more hardware here.”
With less than three minutes remaining in the third period, everything in the game changed. The Terriers’ Tanner Lishchynsky and Dylan Johnson scored just eight seconds apart to tie the game, and decimate the Canadians’ 3-1 lead.
“I think we kept on the attack and they got a little tired,” says McMullen. “We started throwing pucks at the net and the first one squeaked in. When you get that first goal after a little bit, you get that burst of energy and anything can happen right after a goal like that. We just used the momentum to carry us, to get that second goal right after that one.
“When we got that tying goal, right after that we knew we were going to win this. It was our game.
“You could just tell that they were like ‘wow, we just blew a two-goal lead in less than 30 seconds.’ I honestly thought we were going to score before we went into overtime. Everyone on the bench, they just had that feeling that we were going to win now.”
And he was right. At 15:01 of overtime, the Terriers’ Derek Falloon scored, giving the Yorkton Terriers their first ever RBC Cup win.
“I just came on the ice and I was following up the play,” says McMullen, “and Derek had it down low and he shoved it to the net. I started yelling ‘it’s in, it’s in!’ and waited for the ref to finally throw his hand down to say it was a goal.
“Right when that happened, I can’t even remember. It was the best feeling in the world. Words can’t describe it. In about five seconds I had my helmet and gloves off and was hugging Derek by then.
“It was amazing.”
McMullen says he knew the Terriers were serious contenders going into the tournament.
“We just won the westerns so we knew that we were at least in the top two or three teams. We knew coming into the tournament that we could win it. We had no doubt in our mind. It wasn’t like we were just going there for fun. We were going there to win it.
“It’s just great to know that you got there and you are a top team there . . . It’s probably the best tournament I’ve ever been a part of.
“You couldn’t have a bad period or a bad shift because you are playing the best teams, and they make you pay.”
McMullen says the atmosphere in the rink was amazing during the final game.
“That first goal (in the third period), the crowd was into it, and we got that second one to tie it up and it just erupted—it was awesome. The rink wasn’t packed, but it felt like there was three thousand people. It was just amazing.”
McMullen says it was a pleasure being the team captain for this year’s Terriers squad.
“It’s an easy thing to do when you have a good group of guys. They know what to do and you’ve just got to give them a little pep talk here and there, but most of the time the guys know what they are doing out there.
It wasn’t too hard leading these guys. It was awesome to be known as the leader of the first ever RBC champs for the Terriers.”
McMullen spent last week together with the rest his teammates, celebrating the win. It was the team’s last week together, and McMullen’s last week with the Terriers after a four-year career with the team.
“Right now, I’m just up in the air. I have quite a few options,” he says. “I’m going to go play university or college hockey somewhere. I’m just trying to find the perfect match for me.”
After winning the RBC Cup, he says there couldn’t have been a better way to end his SJHL career.
“It’s the perfect ending, honestly. We’ve won league before. I got to the finals my first year. Then last year we won the league and lost out in the westerns. And then this year is just the perfect way to end it. We honestly couldn’t have won anything else. It was the perfect way to end it.
“This is by far my best season of hockey. It might be my best ever for my whole life. You never know what is going to happen. It may go down as my best season of my life.
“Every day you keep thinking about how great of a season it was.”