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Brandt big for Paladins

Makes school history as Top Athlete
Viper grad Riley Brandt was named the Royal Military College Male Athlete of the Year. (RMC Photo)

Riley Brandt made a difference in a hurry with the Royal Military College Paladins in Kingston, Ont. this college hockey season.

Brandt, who captained the Vernon Vipers to the B.C. Hockey League Interior Division final last year, was the first rookie to win the Tommy Smart Cup as the RMC Male Athlete of the Year since legendary basketball player Kevin Dulude, who was on hand to present the award 17 years after earning the title during his first year at RMC in 2000-2001.

“It was quite an honour,” said Brandt. “We just about made the playoffs. It was a good year, but we’re going to be good next year. I think we only lose three guys.”

Brandt, a 21-year-old Trail product, joined the Paladins this season through the Aboriginal Leadership Opportunity Year (ALOY) program, and immediately made an impact on the ice. Tying an RMC record, Brandt led the nation in scoring this season with 21 goals, and tacked on 12 assists.

Brandt, who played right wing alongside former BCHLer Rhett Wilcox of Surrey (4-14-18) and Deric Boudreau of Seeley’s Bay, Ont. (3-8-11), is in the basic arts program.

“I have the option to leave, but I’m coming back. It’s pretty good hockey. Definitely a step up from the BCHL. You have guys who are faster, bigger and older.

“I played my physical game but I also did some scoring. Our team doesn’t get the ex-Major Junior guys like most teams because it’s tough to get guys to commit to the military training.”

The McGill Redmen of Montreal topped the 10-team East Conference title at 22-4-2, while RMC was ninth at 7-16-5.

The 5-foot-8-195-pound hit machine was named the Ontario University Athletics OUA East Rookie of the Year, a member of the U SPORTS and OUA East All-Rookie teams, as well as an OUA East First Team All-Star. Brandt will enter next year as a first-year student at the college.

Brandt spent four years in the BCHL, a rookie season with the Trail Smoke Eaters and the last three with Vernon. He will spend the summer doing military training at a base yet to be announced.

Kara Stephan (Barrie, Ont.) earned the Kelly Gawne Memorial Cup and the title of RMC Female Athlete of the Year for another standout season with the women’s volleyball team. Named an OUA East First Team All-Star, Stephan was one of the top offensive threats in the league during the 2017-18 season, finishing the year first in aces, third in points per set, fourth in kills, and fifth in digs.

After setting an RMC women’s volleyball record with 26 kills in a game against Nipissing, the Computer Engineering student was named the OUA Female Athlete of the Week in January. On hand to present the award was RMC alumna and Olympic triathlete Sharon Donnelly, who was the inaugural winner of the Kelly Gawne Memorial Cup in 1989.