Georgetown native Deron Cousens traveled west to play his Jr. A hockey this past year and his hopes of coming home for the 2006 Royal Bank Cup were dashed with a heartbreaking season-ending overtime loss on Monday night in Burnaby. The 19-year-old Cousens and his Penticton Valley First Vees had home-ice advantage in their series with the Burnaby Express, but they came out on the short end in four of the six final games. The Express now moves on to play Fort McMurray, Alta., with the winner of that series qualifying for the Royal Bank Cup, to be hosted by the Streetsville Derbys at the Powerade Centre in Brampton May 6-14. Cousens, a 6-foot-1, 190-pound defender, had hoped to return home to Ontario with the Vees for the national championship tournament, but there is still the consolation of having earned a full scholarship to Michigan Tech University beginning in September 2007 thanks to his exceptional play over the past couple of seasons. "When I set out for B.C., one of the goals was to get back here to play for the Royal Bank Cup, but you know how it is, someone has to win and someone has to lose," said Cousens on Tuesday, just a few hours after the five-hour bus trip home from Burnaby. "We've got a good nucleus coming back here for my last year of junior and hopefully we can make another run at it." The Vees ran into injury problems and some miraculous netminding by Burnaby's Bryce Luker in losing the BCHL final. Cousens had two goals and four assists in 15 post-season games played and notched seven goals and 24 assists in 53 regular-season contests, seeing first-line powerplay duty. Penticton won the BCHL's Interior Division regular
season title with a 41-13-6 record and were sixth in the latest Canadian Jr. A rankings. With the veteran-laden Georgetown Raiders making an RBC push themselves a couple of seasons ago, Cousens reluctantly felt that his development would be better served by moving away to play Tier 2 hockey. The former Halton Hills Hurricane ended up signing with a youthful Huntsville-Muskoka team and Cousens blossomed as a reliable two-way blueliner with the Otters, earning OPJAHL North Conference all-star and team MVP honours. "Looking back at it now, it certainly was a good choice because it helped me get my scholarship," he added. "I decided to come out to B.C. because the league's a better calibre and a little more professional. I learned a lot playing so much up in Huntsville and I was able to take up a leadership role, and I'd like to do the same (in Penticton) next year." Cousens said that he'll return to Georgetown for the next few months and will take community college courses when he goes back to Penticton in August, in preparation likely for business administration program studies at Michigan Tech. "There are a few things I can work on, always trying to get stronger and just improving on every aspect of the game," he added.