by ACAC Sports Writer Curtis J. Phillips
At the age of 16, Jake Mykitiuk packed his suitcase and left home.
Home had been St. Albert, Alberta.
For the next two years he would call Prince George, British Columbia his "Home Away From Home."
This is the world of amateur hockey, with Mykitiuk suiting up for the Western Hockey League (WHL) Prince George Cougars from 2011-2013.
The move had been forthcoming.
He had already showcased his talents in Bantam and Midget hockey within the St. Albert Minor Hockey Association, putting up some big numbers; 47 points and 69 points in his last years in each division with 32 and 38 games played respectively.
During his stint in Prince George (2011-2013) he skated in 26 regular season games (7 goals and 14 assists).
Of his time in Northern B.C. and of leaving home at a young age, Mykitiuk reminisced.
"Like most players who leave home and go to (Western Hockey League) their parents, especially their moms, miss them," recalls Mykitiuk, now 22 years-of-age and in his second year of Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference (ACAC) men's hockey with the Edmonton-based NAIT Ooks.
"But they were happy for me as they knew that it was a good opportunity.
"At times it was hard but I enjoyed it as it was a new experience. Plus I had great billets with Brenda and Lance. At first you are a bit taken back...but they were friendly, so I got used to it quicker than I thought."
According to Mykitiuk, the couple had had three sons, all older than Mykitiuk, who also had to move away from home in pursuit of their own hockey careers.
One of the brothers was James McEwan (four years in WHL Kelowna Rockets and Seattle Thunderbirds (2004-2008) followed by five years of semi-pro hockey, mainly in the ECHL.
"That's why they were billeting. Their boys had been billeted and now they were paying it forward type-of-thing."
Mykitiuk would return to Alberta, joining the ranks of the Alberta Junior Hockey League (AJHL).
He would wear the uniforms of the Sherwood Park Crusaders and Spruce Grove Saints for the 2013-2014 campaign.
Joining the Saints late in the season, he was part of their AJHL championship when they swept the Drumheller Dragons in four games.
"It was pretty cool," said Mykitiuk. "It has been a while since I was part of a winning team. You kind of forget how it feels."
The Saints would not advance past the annual five-team Western Canada Cup featuring teams from the AJHL, BCHL, Manitoba Junior Hockey League and Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League.
The 5-foot-7 forward would spend the 2014-2015 campaign split between the Saints and WHL Everett Silvertips in the state of Washington.
Of the journey across the border he said: It was a great experience. The fans down there were pretty wild. It (Xfinity Arena, seating capacity 8,149) had a big NHL-type ceiling and they would sale out a lot of nights.
"It didn't matter. Any kind of whistle or anything, and they were cheering."
Returning home for his final year of junior hockey (2015-2016), the stats were ramped up as an AJHL 20 year-old with 43 games 15 goals 28 assists for the Saints.
Four different teams in five years, Mykitiuk has plans to stay an Ook for a while.
In his ACAC rookie campaign (2016-2017) he skated in 27 of the 28 regular season games and finished third in team scoring with 10 goals and 21 assists.
"My first year at NAIT was really good," said Mykitiuk, enrolled in Business Administration. "Knowing and having a lot of good friends on the team made the transition easy."
Two-time defending ACAC men's hockey champions, the Ooks would fall to crosstown rival MacEwan University Griffins in the best-of-three series.
"We came up short but it was still a good season (a league top 22 wins 2 overtime losses with 138 goals scored 70 goals allowed). I'm going to be here for at least four or five years and they (unlike Junior hockey) can't trade me, so that is a good thing."
At the break, the Ooks are tops in the eight-team conference with 11 wins. one loss, 1 overtime loss and one tie with 61 goals for and 26 goals against. Mykitiuk is tied for top points in the ACAC, with nine goals and 12 assists for 21 points. Concordia University of Edmonton Thunder star Adam Wheeldon also has nine goals and 12 assists.
Wheeldon also played against Mykitiuk in the BCHL when a member of the Trail Smoke Eaters.
During the off season Mykitiuk plays golf and has a handicap for four.
With no holes-in-one to date, he was asked, "Would you rather have a hole-in-one or an ACAC Championship."
Quicker than a Tiger Woods drive, he replied: "An ACAC championship. I have plenty for golf when I get older."