The 2018-19 season will be a memorable one for Élie Boulerice, the Ottawa Junior Senators center. The reason: it will be the 20-year-old’s final one in organized hockey.
Boulerice came to a crossroad a couple of years ago when he began to survey his future.
“Playing (professional) hockey is a big dream when you’re young,” he explained. “But you realize there’s other things in life when you grow up.”
Two years ago, Boulerice decided that Division I college hockey and beyond wasn’t in his future; it was time to get on with the other part of his life and he decided to enter college. He’s now a junior at Ottawa University majoring in mechanical engineering.
In the meantime, he has managed to juggle his time between the classroom and the ice rink superbly (he had five exams in six days during the playoffs last spring). When he receives his degree in two years, he’ll be ready to put hockey behind and start a career in engineering.
Boulerice, however, is as committed as ever to his hockey career. “I just love playing hockey,” he said. “I want to make this year as much fun as I can.”
The fact that Head Coach & GM Martin Dagenais has been flexible in helping his 5-10, 172-pound center work out a schedule around his schoolwork is proof of how important Dagenais believes Boulerice is to the team.
Last year, Boulerice played a key role in the Junior Senators winning the Bogart and Fred Page Cup championships. A superb two-way player who is outstanding at winning face-offs, he scored perhaps the most important goal of the playoffs in the Bogart Cup finals.
The Junior Senators had won five consecutive Central Canada Hockey League Yzerman Division titles going into the 2017-18 season but could not get by their rivals and nemesis, the Carleton Place Canadians. The Junior Senators again won the Division crown (sixth straight) and for the third straight time played the Canadians in the Bogart Cup finals.
The Senators were up 1-0 in the best-of-seven series. In game two, the Canadians were poised to tie up the series, holding a one-goal lead before Boulerice scored and tied the game with five seconds left in regulation. The Junior Senators then won the game in overtime. The win was pivotal as Ottawa won two of the next three games to win the series 4-1.
“It was the biggest goal of my career,” said Boulerice. “It was out of desperation.”
Boulerice’s game-tying goal was instinct. He tapped an airborne puck down to the ice with his stick and then quickly put a shot on goal in traffic.
“When it went in I was so happy,” he recalled. “It was just an incredible, and amazing experience. It was rewarding to beat at team that everyone thought was better than us on paper” Boulerice remarked.
Ottawa went on to again defeat Carleton Place during the Fred Page Cup tournament.
However, last year is last year and the 2018-19 Junior Senators are not resting on their laurels. “We’re a different team but the goal is still the same,” he pointed out.
Ottawa features a much younger squad this year with nine rookies and just three 20-year-olds. Boulerice, a four-year veteran, is the most experienced and, as an alternate captain, knows his role goes beyond his performance on the ice.
“I have to be a leader as much as I can for the young guys and put the team on my shoulders once in a while,” he explained.
“He will help the rookies adjust to the successful two-way system that has helped our team finish near the top year after year, Dagenais noted.
Without surrendering his all-around play, Boulerice, who scored 14 goals and had 25 assists last season, will look to help the offense out a bit more this time around.
“I played on the shutdown line last year,” he said. “Maybe I can produce more this year while not changing the way I play in the defensive zone. That’s my goal.”
While admitting he’s not the fastest skater on the ice, Boulerice makes up for it with his smarts, being one-step ahead of the play and knowing where to position himself on both ends of the ice.
Boulerice certainly has a lot of fond memories to take away from his Canadian junior hockey career with Ottawa no matter what happens this season. But, if it’s up to him, the 2018-19 campaign will provide him and OJS with many more.