Brandon McCartney grew up as a city kid in Winnipeg and never really understood the appeal of the rural lifestyle. Now, after two years with the Portage Terriers, he says his view has completely changed.

"Portage is a really special place. I'm not a huge small-town guy but moving to one definitely changed my perspective on that," says McCartney. "Portage is special, and anyone who gets the chance to play there is really lucky. When you go and play in these small towns, you don't really know what to expect, but as soon as you get there, it's so welcoming. Throughout the two years that I was with the Terriers, the support from the community was unmatched. I will forever be grateful for my time in Portage."

The defenceman spent the last two seasons with the Dogs and put up nearly a point-per-game last season with six goals and 48 assists in 56 games. McCartney added eight points in the playoffs, including a game-winning-goal in overtime, and he had five points in six games at the Centennial Cup.

"Nothing I have ever been a part of has been like the Centennial. The fan support was great," McCartney continues. "I think Hockey Canada and the Portage Terriers put on a really great event. It's something I'll remember for the rest of my life. We enjoyed every minute of it. Obviously, we wanted to win, but from a general standpoint, it couldn't have been a better end to junior hockey for me."

McCartney put up 20 points in his debut season with the Terriers in 2021-22. He and the Dogs finished one point shy of the playoffs, which was the first time Portage had missed the postseason in over 35 years. 

The Terriers had ten players from that team play in the Centennial Cup this year. McCartney believes the 2021-2022 campaign was the building block they needed to become a successful team this season.

"It was the first full year after COVID had shut things down. I had a couple of junior games under my belt but nothing too substantial. I don't think anyone else really had any junior experience. There was definitely a learning curve there in the first year but I think everyone matured this year," McCartney explains. "Having that experience helped us immensely this year, not only on the ice but off the ice too. Just with things like taking care of ourselves and making sure that we're ready to go every single night."

He finished the season tied for the top spot in points by a defenceman and second in the entire MJHL in assists. McCartney is very proud of the individual success he had in his senior season.

"It was a big confidence thing for me this year. Once I started to roll a little bit, it was nice to be able to keep it going. Obviously, the help of my teammates doesn't go unrecognized. I'm happy with my individual success this year but I think the team success, especially throughout the regular season, is something I'll always cherish and remember."

McCartney notes he learned so much from the Terriers' coaching staff over the last two years. He says there are a ton of lessons he will be able to apply to his life beyond hockey as well.

"I learned to be mentally tough. You learn that things happen in your life on the ice and off the ice, and you just have to persevere," McCartney continues. "When you have those hiccups or are in a little bit of a slump, you can't get too down on yourself. You learn as you go and see what works for you but at the end of the day, you can't give up on yourself."

McCartney will be continuing his hockey career next season in USPORTS. He plans to make an official commitment over the next few days.