Just over four years ago, David Budgell was at a crossroad.
The then-19-year-old was toiling away in the Maritime Junior Hockey League for an expansion club with a terrible record.
Used as a bottom-six energy player with the St. Stephen County Aces, it took just seven games of his sophomore season in the league to realize the dream of going anywhere else with the game was likely over.
It was time to head home to St. Anthony and turn to school.
“I decided to make what turned out to be the right decision,” Budgell says now.
“I’m pretty happy to be where I’m to.”
After taking some time to figure out what his future held, he spent much of last year training for his current occupation as a fishery officer with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
A steady career has now allowed Budgell to rejoin the senior hockey world with the Corner Brook Royals this season. He spent some time with the team upon returning home originally from the junior ranks when it was under the umbrella of the now-defunct Newfoundland Senior A Hockey League.
Limited to just five games during the regular season, in which he scored two goals, Budgell has erupted in the post-season with 16 points (7G-9A) in eight games.
“Pretty good considering I haven’t played competitive hockey in two years,” he said with a laugh.
Like teammate Josh Smith, who was in a similar situation with taking time away from the game and then missing regular season games this year, Budgell feels his legs have finally returned.
He returned because he missed the game and being around a “good group” of guys.
“And just for the exercise, honestly.”
There has been plenty to get his heart pumping during the West Coast Senior Hockey League playoffs, where the best-of-seven final versus the Port aux Basques Mariners is now deadlocked 2-2. Neither team has been able to win a game on home ice yet.
“I don’t really have an answer for that,” Budgell admitted, noting the two games Port aux Basques has won, he felt the Mariners were the harder working team.
He acknowledges the smaller ice at the Bruce II may give the quicker Royals an edge in creating chances off the cycle, but for the most part, he believes hard work will win the series, not any particular location of a game.
Regardless of what happens, this will be the season’s final weekend, with Game 7, if necessary, slated for Sunday night in Corner Brook, and Budgell is confident it can be a successful one for the Royals if they can play like they did this past Saturday night in a 6-2 triumph at the Bruce II Sports Centre in Port aux Basques. He had two assists in that game.
The Royals will have another chance to claim a win on home ice tonight, which Budgell says is certainly a big game for momentum purposes, but says the team just had to take it one game at a time.
If the current trend continues, with the Royals losing in Corner Brook and the Mariners losing in Port aux Basques, Budgell has no qualms with it coming back home for a winner-take-all Game 7 and one more chance to break the home-ice curse.
“I’m willing to play a Game 7 anywhere,” he said.
The Royals host the Mariners 8 p.m. tonight at the Corner Brook Civic Centre, with Game 6 slated for 7:30 p.m. Saturday in Port aux Basques. Game 7, if necessary, goes 7:30 p.m. Sunday back at the civic centre in Corner Brook.