Mitch Maynard has been here before – national championship, playing for the home team.
And he’s looking for the same result the second time around.
Flash back 357 days to May 27, 2012, to the Centre Bionest in Shawinigan, Que. Anton Zlobin scored 17:51 into overtime to give Maynard and the Shawinigan Cataractes a 2-1 win over the London Knights and the Memorial Cup championship.
Now Maynard is chasing a second straight national title, this time with the Summerside Western Capitals, who go for the RBC Cup, Canada’s National Junior A Championship, on home ice this week.
The 20-year-old was a victim of numbers in the QMJHL; he wasn’t going to get one of Shawinigan’s three overage spots, and when no other Major Junior team had space for him, Maynard signed up with the Western Capitals.
“When I made the decision that I wanted to go down and play Junior A, Summerside was the place I wanted to be when I knew that they were hosting, because I just got that winning taste in my mouth and I wanted more,” Maynard said. “To be able to host these tournaments and have the fans behind you, it’s really special.”
Maynard stepped into a top-six role with Summerside, finishing second in team scoring, and fifth in the Maritime Hockey League, with 70 points in 48 games, helping the Western Capitals to a team record-tying 43 wins, an MHL regular season championship and a top-three ranking in the CJHL Top 20.
For his on-ice efforts, Maynard was named the MHL Player of the Year, an award he attributes not only to his offensive numbers, but his ability to make an impact in all three zones.
“I like to bring two-way play,” Maynard said of his style of game. I’m on the penalty kill and on the power play, so I’m reliable in my own end, and like to chip in offensively too.”
But it wasn’t just what he could do on the ice that attracted the Western Capitals to Maynard. The Cole Harbour, N.S., native has been a winner wherever he has gone; in addition to his Memorial Cup title, Maynard played in the TELUS Cup, Canada’s National Midget Championship, with his hometown McCains in 2008.
And he’s not shy to share his experiences with his teammates.
“I like to tell them stories and get them fired up, get everyone excited about how much the city will come around us if we are able to go out on top,” Maynard said. “The fans can be a big boost to the team.”
Where Maynard’s 2013 national championship experience differs from 2012 is the playoff run.
While the Cataractes crashed out in seven games in the second round to eighth-seeded Chicoutimi, the Western Capitals rolled through the MHL postseason, losing just once in 13 games, winning Summerside’s third league title in the last five years.
“I learned a lot last year when we got kicked out of playoffs in the second round,” Maynard said. “This year I was happy with the way we did in playoffs, and that we were able to win our league.”
After 197 games over four seasons with three teams in two leagues, this is where it ends for Maynard. As a 20-year-old, his junior career will come to an end when the final horn sounds to end Sunday’s championship game.
To go out on top, as a national champion for the second year in a row?
“It would be an unbelievable feeling. Not many people get to say they won their last junior game, so we’re fighting for that, and it’s all or nothing.”