After two enjoyable years with the KIJHL’s Creston Valley Thunder Cats, Ethan Rusnack wasn’t exactly sure what a move to the Okanagan would mean for his hockey career.
As it turned out, the 19-year-old forward is more than content with his first half season in a Kelowna Chiefs’ uniform.
“It’s been awesome, Kelowna’s a beautiful place and I’m enjoying playing here,” said Rusnack, a native of Calgary who turns 20 next month. “Creston was a good experience too…living in the Kootenays and playing in that division is a bit different than the Okanagan.
“I like both but I’m happy to be here now.”
And for the Chiefs, the feeling is clearly mutual. Rusnack, who came over from Creston in a trade for Nicholas Kovacik this summer, has produced on the scoresheet and is second in scoring for Kelowna with 12 goals and 28 points in 22 games.
In addition to being one of the club’s top offensive threats, Rusnack also provides the Chiefs with a considerable degree of leadership.
After some personnel changes to the Chiefs’ roster this week, Rusnack was named an assistant captain.
“He’s a skilled guy, he’s experienced and an all-around leader,” said Chiefs’ Grant Sheridan said of Rusnack, one of four over-age players on the team’s roster.
“He leads by example and is just a great kid to have on our team. He hasn’t had a letter on his jersey until now, but he’s been leader all the way through.”
After a slow start to the season, Rusnack and the Chiefs have been gaining some traction in the Okanagan Division and are 6-3-1 in their last 10 games.
Rusnack believes the club’s recent play is a sign of things to come.
“We’re starting to find our chemistry and we’re hitting our stride,” Rusnack said. “The season’s half over, so there’s no time like now to start playing our best hockey. I think we have the team to go a long way in the playoffs.”
In addition to a long and meaningful playoff run with the Chiefs, Rusnack hopes his stay in Kelowna will result in opening other doors in the hockey world—such as landing with a Div. 3 program in the U.S., or in the ACHA (American Collegiate Hockey Association).
“When I was about 14 I realized the NHL wasn’t going to be in my future, so I’ve been working towards hopefully getting a scholarship and studying business,” Rusnack said. “I don’t know if it’s in the cards, but right now that’s my dream.”
The Chiefs return to action Friday when the visit the Summerland Steam, before returning home Saturday to host the Chase Heat. Face off at Rutland Arena is 7 p.m.