For Brennan Bosch, his time in junior hockey and his five seasons with the University of Saskatchewan Huskies have flown by in a flash.
For the 26-year-old from Martensville, just 10 minutes north of Saskatoon, it seems like only yesterday he was 18 and scored the WHL championship-clinching goal in double overtime for the 2006-07 Medicine Hat Tigers.
But here he is, days away from the end of his time with the Huskies, ready to compete for the University Cup. The six-team national championship tournament that includes the host Huskies, Acadia, Alberta, Carleton, McGill and Windsor begins on Thursday.
"It has gone by fast," said the 5-foot-7, 170-pound captain of the Huskes.
"But at the same time a lot has happened in the last five years being involved with this program. I've grown a lot as a person, too, and probably for the good.
"But we still have a week left. I realize I have a great opportunity here and, as a fifth-year guy, I don't know if I could ask for a better way to go out than to be able to compete for a national championship."
Bosch has reflected on his long career this week. Before he starred in Medicine Hat and made the decision to enroll at the University of Saskatchewan and later gain acceptance into the pharmacy program, he remembers watching games on television with his father. Dad cheered for the Toronto Maple Leafs. But the younger Bosch wanted to back a winner, so he supported Joe Sakic and the Colorado Avalanche.
Bosch spent hours with friends and teammates at the outdoor rink next to the Martensville Civic Centre. Most of his friendships have been made through hockey. He adores being part of a team.
After a successful four-season junior career in Medicine Hat, Bosch investigated his options. He wanted to go to university, but was unsure he could be a student again. It had been a couple of years since he had graduated from high school.
But upon his visit to the University of Saskatchewan Bosch met then Huskies fourth-year left wing Jason Wagar. The older hockey player gave Bosch a tour of the campus and they talked about the school and the hockey program.
"In talking to him that day, I found out how important it was to him to be a student-athlete," Bosch said. "He later helped me prioritize my time.
"He'd come to the rink and he was the most intense and hard-working guy on the team. I noticed how he also was on top of his schooling, always trying to get ahead.
"I remember taking bus trips and he'd help out a first-year guy like me with an English essay or something I was struggling with. It went a long way.
"He probably doesn't even know how much he helped. But I appreciate what he did for me."
The neat development for Bosch this season was that Wagar returned to the Huskies program as an assistant coach.
Bosch has one year remaining to complete his Bachelor of Science in pharmacy, an area of study he was interested in because his uncle, Ken, is a pharmacist in North Battleford, Sask.
Bosch doesn't know where hockey will take him next. For now, the focus has been on leading his teammates into the national championship this weekend, taking all the lessons he has learned, including watching his hero, Sakic, from afar.
Sakic played his junior hockey in Swift Current, a three-hour drive southwest of Martensville. He finished up his junior career a few months after Bosch was born. But that didn't preclude the youngster from studying Sakic as a player and later reading everything he could about him.
"Everything I'd read or heard about him, especially when he was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame [in 2012], was how highly his teammates or those he played against thought of him," said Bosch, who tries to ply Sakic's quiet leadership in his role as Huskies captain.
"I'd say that's the way I do things. I want to be a guy who says things when things need to be said.
"But I really do believe that your actions are more important than words. By going out there and working as hard as you can, I feel, is a more effective way of doing things."
University Cup Teams
1. Alberta Golden Bears (CWUAA champions: 25-2-1 regular season; 4-0 playoffs)
2. Acadia Axemen (AUS champions: 21-4-3 regular season; 6-2 playoffs)
3. Windsor Lancers (OUA champions: 17-11-0 regular season; 7-1 playoffs)
4. McGill Redmen (OUA finalists: 21-5-2 regular season; 6-2 playoffs)
5. Saskatchewan Huskies (Hosts: 17-10-1 regular season; 1-2 playoffs)
6. Carleton Ravens (OUA bronze medalists: 22-5-1 regular season; 6-3 playoffs)
Schedule (all times CT)
Thursday, March 20
1 p.m. Pool A #1: No. 1 Alberta vs. No. 6 Carleton
7 p.m. Pool B #1: No. 2 Acadia vs. No. 3 Windsor
Friday, March 21
1 p.m. Pool A #2: Loser Pool A #1 vs. No. 4 McGill
7 p.m. Pool B #2: Loser Pool B #1 vs. No. 5 Saskatchewan
Saturday, March 22
2 p.m. Pool A #3: Winner Pool A #1 vs. No. 4 McGill
7 p.m. Pool B #3: Winner Pool B #1 vs. No. 5 Saskatchewan
Sunday, March 23
1:30 p.m. Championship Final
Follow Tim Wharnsby on Twitter @WharnsbyCBC
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