A day after hoisting the most prestigious trophy in junior hockey, Jacob DeSerres could hardly believe it had happened.
DeSerres arrived safely back home in Saint John, N.B., with the rest of his Sea Dogs teammates on Monday after backstopping the club to a 3-1 victory over the host Mississauga St. Michael's Majors in the Memorial Cup final on Sunday evening.
It was the ultimate reversal of fortunes for DeSerres, who was in net for the Brandon Wheat Kings when they lost the Memorial Cup final 9-1 to the Windsor Spitfires a year ago at Westman Place.
"It feels incredible, just the thought that I just won the Memorial Cup," DeSerres said via cell phone yesterday. "It's surreal. It's like the ultimate high."
DeSerres made 34 saves and was named the first star in this year's championship victory over the Majors. If his busy night between the pipes wasn't enough to exhaust the Calgary product, then the victory party should certainly finish the job.
"We had a great time and there's a couple more days of it," he chuckled.
"I actually couldn't believe how many people were waiting in the airport today when we got back and we're doing a parade tomorrow."
The victory capped a remarkable junior-hockey journey for the 21-year-old, who endured some wild ups and downs in the Western Hockey League, from being drafted by the NHL's Philadelphia Flyers (2008, third round), to appearing in the Memorial Cup with the Wheat Kings, to ultimately losing the lopsided final and having the Flyers decline to sign him to a contract.
That journey took another twist last fall, when DeSerres was waived by the Wheat Kings to make room for younger goaltenders and was passed over by the entire WHL before ending up in Saint John. As it happened, it was a blessing in disguise.
"I just kinda grew up I guess," he said. "I just hit that peak, everything that I've been through in my four years in the 'Dub', all the ups and downs, it just all came together and I just started figuring a lot out. I figured a lot about myself out and what needs to be done to be a successful goalie."
Even after helping the Sea Dogs win the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League title, DeSerres still had his doubters going into Memorial Cup. Now, his clutch performance may have put him back on the map with prospective professional suitors.
"At the time (not being signed by the Flyers) felt like a setback," said DeSerres, who went 3-0 with a 1.82 goals-against average and .946 save percentage during the tournament. "Now that I look at it, I'm thankful they didn't sign me because this happened and hopefully this will bring more opportunities and maybe some more options. In the end, I had this year to become the goalie I am now and I'm happy the way it turned out. I wouldn't have played it any other way."
WORKOUT WARRIORS: With the Memorial Cup over, scouts have turned their attention to the NHL Scouting Combine, which began Monday in Toronto, featuring 102 of the top draft-eligible prospects.
Among them is Brandonite Joel Edmundson, a Moose Jaw Warriors defenceman who is ranked 33rd among North American Skaters for June's draft.
The players will be put through a series of fitness tests and interviewed by NHL executives and scouts over the course of the week.