How do you define sportsmanship? For Brendan Jacome, it's a combination of factors.
"It's playing a clean game, and if you're always in the right position then you're not in the position to take a bad penalty," he explained. "It's a combination of luck too, it's really easy for a guy to step on your stick and get a tripping penalty."
The third-year forward from Caledon, ON, checked off all the boxes, as he capped the season as the 2018-19 winner of the R.W. Pugh Award (U SPORTS Most Sportsmanlike Player).
"It's pretty cool to be recognized at the national level, something I can always look back on," he said.
Jacome easily surpassed his career-highs offensively, scoring 13 goals and 16 assists in 27 games. He went on to pot three more goals and five assists in five playoff games. All without taking a single penalty all season long.
"I checked the stats once and realized it. I was aware of it, you know when you get a penalty. But it wasn't something I'm thinking about going into a game," he said.
Assistant Coach Christian Gaudet worked closely with Jacome over the course of the season, calling him a well-deserving recipient of the award.
"I just think he doesn't cheat, he plays the game the right way. The fact he didn't take any penalties shows he's always in the right position, he's a very smart player," said Gaudet.
"He's one of those special players, as a coach it's a privilege to have a guy like that on your team. I knew whenever he was on the ice, something special would happen."
Old school hockey often brings to mind 'pugnacity and truculence,' suggesting a player without penalty minutes lacks an edge, or plays 'a soft game.'
But this isn't the case for a player like Jacome.
"Looking at the stats, you'd think I play a soft game, floating around a lot. I don't think that's true, I like to think I work hard down low in the corners battling for pucks. That stat can be a little misleading," Jacome added.
This season also saw Jacome handle greater responsibilities on the ice. Following two seasons as a winger, he shifted to the middle of the ice, taking regular shifts at centre all season long.
Gaudet recalled Jacome's commitment to improvement early on in the season.
"He spent the extra time working to have more tools in his toolbox to win more face-offs. The hunger to learn really helped him out," Gaudet explained.
"He's a student of the game, he enjoys learning, and if there is something he needs to improve within his game, he finds a way to get better at those things," he added.
A standout season of sportsmanship isn't a one-off for Jacome, it's a style of play that he emulated from his father, and has been a part of his entire hockey career.
"A lot of it has been my Dad, he was always very active in the game and played at a pretty high level. People who know him say I play a lot like he did, working hard and when you're a good skater you can get up and ahead of the play," Jacome said.
In seven seasons, split between the Gee-Gees and the OJHL's Georgetown Raiders, Jacome has averaged less than 10 penalty minutes a season.
His final season with the Raiders in 2016, he was named the OJHL's Most Gentlemanly Player.
"I didn't have a penalty that year through my first 42 games, and then I had a tripping penalty. I remember that one," Jacome recalled.
"Here we play 28 games, but in Junior it's a much longer season. My teammates laughed when I finally got that one, I ended up with two more. Roughing, I think, for sticking up for my brother," he laughed.