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SYDNEY — Graduating Cape Breton Screaming Eagles captain Jonathan Brunelle’s final season in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League saw him put up big numbers both on the scoreboard and in the classroom.
Brunelle finished the season as the team’s leading scorer with 30 goals and 55 assists for 85 points in 68 games. He brought his textbooks on long road trips and worked to complete a CEGEP distance program, finishing with an 85 average.
“I have to say the travel is a bit of a challenge,” he said. “We’re on the bus all the time, so you have to bring your books and work hard. But I don’t consider it anything special, it’s just going to school and playing hockey, so I just did what I like to do. For me, it’s normal opening my books when I have the time and training hard in the gym.”
Although Brunelle’s junior career is now over, that hard work hasn’t gone unnoticed.
The 20-year-old was named the QMJHL honouree for the Guy Lafleur Award of Excellence and also received the Guy Lafleur Award of Merit for this past season. The awards are presented to hockey players at the amateur level who best combine performance on the ice with strong academics. The three recipients receive a $6,000 scholarship over three years from Molson/Coors, while Brunelle will receive an extra $1,000 for winning the award of merit.
“It was an honour to receive that prize and I was happy to meet him and shake his hand,” said Brunelle, who received the award from Lafleur, a Montreal Canadiens legend. “I think it was a good thing that I didn’t make a speech because I was kind of nervous and impressed by him.”
Brunelle also won the Subway Scholastic Player of the Year award as the Canadian Hockey League’s top academic performer last month, and attended the awards ceremony during the MasterCard Memorial Cup in Shawinigan. Brunelle edged out Adam Pelech of the Erie Otters and Reid Gow of the Spokane Chiefs for the honour.
He became the second Screaming Eagles player to win the award after Robert Slaney in 2007-08.
“I was invited to the Memorial Cup with guys like Brendan Shinnimin, Dougie Hamilton, all these tremendous players,” said Brunelle. “Just to be named with them, it was a great opportunity.”
In April, Brunelle was named the Marcel Robert Trophy winner as the QMJHL’s top student-athlete. As his team’s nominee for the award, he received a $400 scholarship. The five finalists received an additional $400 scholarship, and as the winner, Brunelle received a $500 bursary. A total of $1,300 from TELUS, the League's premier partner, which sponsors the award.
Only two other Screaming Eagles players won the Marcel Robert Trophy: Slaney in 2007-08 and Guillaume Demers in 2004-05.
Screaming Eagles education co-ordinator Gary MacLean said Brunelle showed great focus and dedication to his studies, and excelled despite the tough travel schedule the Screaming Eagles face each season.
“What you saw on the ice, his focus, dedication, hard work and work ethic, that’s the same approach he has in the classroom,” said MacLean. “He works hard, is goal-oriented and has high standards. He set that example on the ice and in the classroom as well.”
Brunelle plans on attending McGill University in Montreal in the fall and will join the national champion Redmen hockey team. He’ll take general courses in his first year and switch to the business program next year.
Brunelle was also be at the 2012 QMJHL draft on Saturday, speaking to prospective players and their parents about the Screaming Eagles’ education program.
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