Last season with the Prince George Spruce Kings, Alain Joanette came within a couple of goals of winning the RBC Royal Bank Cup.
All summer long he thought that might be his only real chance to be crowned a national Junior A hockey champion. But less than four months from now, the 20-year-old centre will get another shot at the big prize playing for the Cornwall Colts.
A January 2007 deadline trade brought the talented playmaker to Prince George as what he classes a "rental player," and it was a deadline deal three weeks ago that sent Joanette from the Peterborough Liftlock Stars to the Colts, who will play host to the 2008 RBC tournament, May 3-11.
"I'm very excited about it," said Joanette, from his billet home in Cornwall. "A lot of people wish for just one chance at it and I'm going to get my second crack at it. Hopefully the second time's a charm.
"We're a little bit behind in the standings, kind of like Prince George was. We're using the regular season to try to find the right line combinations and try to make it a good playoff run."
The Colts (25-19-1-2) are currently second in their division standings, fifth overall in the Central Junior Hockey League. The Pembroke Lumber Kings, who played in Prince George at the 2007 RBC, lead the league at 37-8-2-0.
In 34 Ontario Junior A Provincial Hockey League games with the Stars, Joanette collected 14 goals and 35 assists for 49 points. He's on a 3-7-10 pace in 11 games with the Colts. Weeks before the trade was made he heard from a few sources he was a wanted man in Cornwall.
"I wasn't looking for a trade but a lot of people had been telling me, 'You had a real good tournament last year, I would expect Cornwall to be all over you,' and I didn't really think so," said Joanette.
"My mind was set on Peterborough trying to win the league and make it through the Dudley-Hewitt (regional playoffs). Once I got the phone call, it sucked to jump ship, but this is an opportunity I'll never get again. I think anybody would jump at it."
Playing on a line with Tyler Helfrich and Jason Yuel, Joanette led the Spruce Kings with four goals in six games at the RBC tournament and had the Kings' only goal in their 3-1 loss to the Aurora Tigers in the championship final. Joanette also scored the first goal in the Kings' epic 3-2 semifinal win over the Camrose Kodiaks and assisted on Yuel's power-play goal that ended the longest game in RBC history, 6:01 into the fifth overtime period.
Joanette has had many conversations with his teammates this season recounting the Kings' season-ending successes.
"A lot of guys are looking up to me for experience because I've been there, asking me how it was, and I pretty much have the same answer for everybody," Joanette said. "Once you play in the Royal Bank Cup, it's an experience you'll never forget -- especially with Prince George being known as the best Royal Bank Cup and how great the fans were that whole week, it definitely lived up the hype everybody gave it. Playing in that eight-period semifinal is something I'll never forget."
Joanette has been offered partial scholarships to Division 1 NCAA schools but wants the full ride and is considering playing Canadian university hockey in his home province next season.
"The University of Toronto has offered me a really good package and since it's in Canada that's something that's catching my eye," he said.
"But I'm not closing the door on NCAA because that's something I've always looked up to."