In the middle of the 2012-13 season, Josh Ellis was playing junior B hockey with the North Okanagan Knights, uncertain of which direction his career was going to take.
A year and a half later, the Kelowna Minor Hockey product is celebrating an RBC Cup championship.
Ellis and another former Okanagan Rockets forward, Cortlan Procter, helped push to the Yorkton Terriers to victory last weekend at the Canadian Junior A Hockey Championship in Vernon.
The Terriers, the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League champs, prevailed over the Carleton Place Canadians 4-3 in overtime in Sunday’s national final at Kal Tire Place.
“It’s pretty surreal,” Ellis, 19, said Wednesday from Yorkton. “You couldn’t have written it any better. It was lucky for me to end up with Yorkton, and I couldn’t have asked for anything more.”
Ellis, who served as captain of the B.C. Major Midget League’s Rockets for two seasons, began the 2012-13 campaign in the BCHL, but was released soon after by the Salmon Arm Silverbacks.
It wasn’t long after joining KIJHL’s North Okanagan Knights that Ellis’ career took another unexpected turn, as the Terriers called on the 5-foot-9, 170-pound forward to join the SJHL team for the remainder of the season.
If Ellis had finished last season in junior B, an education would likely have taken precedence over hockey.
“I was pretty fortunate, I was probably 24 hours away from finishing last season in junior B,” he said. “I showed up in Yorkton blind, the coach picked me up, I went to practise and here I am today.”
Ellis went on to play the last 12 regular season games with the Terriers and 17 more in the playoffs, as Yorkton advanced to the Western Canada Cup before being eliminated.
This season, with a veteran roster in tact, Ellis and the Terriers rolled to the SJHL title and won the Western Canada Cup.
In Vernon, Ellis, Procter and the Terriers capped a dream season in dramatic fashion with an RBC title.
“To come back late in the game and tie it, then win in overtime just shows the amount of character our team has,” said Ellis, who had an assist in six games at the national tournament. “We have some big hardware (rings) for our hands coming and the RBC medals, so it’s a pretty amazing finish to the season.”
Okanagan Rockets GM David Michaud said no player is more deserving of championship ring than Josh Ellis.
“Josh was the ultimate leader for us,” Michaud said. “Talking with Yorkton coach Trent Cassan, nothing has changed. Josh is a heart and soul player and personally I couldn’t be happier to see him achieve the ultimate success in junior A. Josh’s success paved the way for Cortlan Procter to go to Yorkton, and it will lead to more Okanagan Rockets heading there in the future.”
Ellis will return to the Terriers in 2014-15 as a 20-year-old for his final season of junior hockey.
Meanwhile, Josh’s older brother, Brendan, who played four seasons with the BCHL’s West Kelowna Warriors, just finished up his collegiate career this spring at Merrimack College, then played in one game for the American Hockey League’s Manchester Monarchs.