There were a few familiar faces back on the ice this past weekend at the Save-On-Foods Oceanside Generals camp, but one of them seemed to have the biggest smile of all.
Chandler Bruyckere, a 19-year-old from Parksville, was back on home ice after spending some time in El Paso, Texas, where he played for the El Paso Rhinos of the Western States Hockey League. Bruyckere departed from the Generals late in their season to head south to play for the Rhinos, a decision that he had a tough time making.
“It’s never easy when you’ve got a chance like that and you have to make a choice,” Bruyckere said. “I had a chance to head down to El Paso and play a key role on a team that was in the hunt for a league title but it was tough to make that call to leave here when we still had a shot at making the playoffs too.”
The Generals would go on to miss the VIJHL playoffs but the Rhinos made the playoffs and almost ran the table in doing so, going 44–2 on their season. The Rhinos were far and away the top team in the WSHL and went on a tear in the playoffs, capturing the Thorne Cup. The Rhinos then went on to the National Championships, where they captured the national title as well.
“It was pretty awesome to be a part of something like that, for sure,” Bruyckere said. “To go to that team and have everyone welcome me in that late in the season was great and to be part of that run the team went on was even better. It was by far the biggest thing I’ve been a part of so far in my life.”
Bruyckere had 10 points in 15 games with the Rhinos before the playoffs hit. He added an assist in eight games through the playoff run to the Thorne Cup in which they beat the three time defending champs Idaho Jr. Steelheads.
The nationals were held in Las Vegas where, again, the Rhinos beat the Steelheads 6–3. It was the Rhino’s first ever national title.
Back at home after only a week off the ice; Bruyckere was back at Oceanside Place, taking part in the General’s spring camp. Bruckyere has attended a few junior A camps as well and this was his last stop before resting up and deciding on his next move.
“It’s real good to be back at home. I missed it while I was gone and it’s always a nice feeling to be able to come back,” Bruyckere said. “I’m happy that I got the chance to come back here and skate with the Generals again. I’m still up in the air about where I’m going next but for now it’s nice to be back home and putting on the Gens jersey one more time.”