Their season ended in the third-and-deciding game of the first round of the Great North Midget Hockey League playoffs. And head coach Brandon Perry likes what may lie ahead for the Timmins Majors.
The sixth-seeded Majors gave the third-place Sudbury Nickel Capital Wolves all they could handle in what was a hotly-contested, opening-round, playoff set.
But the Nickel Capital Wolves had the significant advantage of being able to call on players from the powerhouse Sudbury Minor Wolves for the series — and that proved to be a difference-maker. In fact, in the Nickel Caps’ 4-1, series-clinching win over Timmins, three of Sudbury’s four goals were scored by players who were added from the Minor Wolves for the playoffs.
Fair game or not by Sudbury, the season has ended for Timmins. And Perry, the hard-driven Majors head coach, is in both a reflective and look-ahead mode as he takes stock of the Timmins program.
“I think our season as a whole, if we measured it in wins and losses, it would seem like a disappointment,” Perry said of the Timmins team that had a regular season record of 10-25-1.
Still, Timmins finished just two points behind the fifth-place New Liskeard Cubs and a mere three points back of the third-place Soo Major Thunderbirds among the major midget teams of the Great North.
But, while Perry told Hockey News North that “I do feel we underachieved a bit and we were too inconsistent over the course of the season but if you look at the way we played our last regular season game, a 4-3 loss to the (first-place, unbeaten, with a record of 36-0-0) North Bay Major Trappers, and our playoff series with Sudbury, we showed a lot of fight and a lot of character.
“If we would have had that almost sense of urgency throughout the season I think we would have finished in the top three, maybe four teams in the league (instead of sixth among the six major midget teams of the nine-member Great North),” Perry reasoned.
Still, the soon-to-be-30-year old Perry was able to call the 2018-2019 season a certain success of sorts for his Timmins team.
“If we measure our season on the development of our players, I would consider it a success,” Perry began. “We had a lot of young kids coming out of a bantam program that has struggled in recent years … when you lose that many games you develop so many bad habits and it’s mentally tough to break out of it.
“But our first year players came a long way over the year. We are a demanding coaching staff and at times we are hard to play for but I hope these kids realize that we are hard on them because we want to hold them to the highest standard to make them believe in themselves and give them the tools to be successful.
“I think a lot of our players learned the importance of doing things the right way on and off the ice over the course of the year. They learned the importance of competing on a nightly basis, playing with speed and urgency night in and night out … it’s a hard thing to do. I am extremely proud of our group,” added Perry, who in his playing days as a relentless forward, was the captain of his hometown Majors before going on to play three full seasons with the Kingston Voyageurs of the Ontario Jr. Hockey League and four more full years with the Queen’s University Golden Gaels of Ontario University Athletics and then part of a term in the Southern Professional Hockey League.
Perry further reflected on the 2018-2019 season in Timmins, beginning by singling out a number of the older players.
“Standouts would obviously be (goalie) Dylan Dallaire and (defenseman) Cameron Dutkiewicz, they were our pillars and were both fantastic and are going to go on to have successful junior careers. (Forwards) Garrett Gelinas, Carson Cavalieri and Brennen Martel and (defenseman) Gavin Martel are guys that gave us everything they had over the last two seasons and are going to be missed. They are great kids who I wish all the best to.
“And (forwards) Joel Martin, Landon McGrath and Eric Daigle are three, third year midget kids who had never played AAA before and they stepped in and were big contributors to our team in every situation,” Perry noted.
Timmins also utilized six minor-midget aged, 2003 birth-year youngsters over the full 2018-2019 Great North season. And Perry had plenty good to say about his young 15-year olds.
“Our 2003 kids grew a lot over the season,” Perry pointed out. “(Defenseman) Mason Berthiaume deserves to be a pick at this year’s (Ontario Hockey League priority selections) draft. He is a beast of a hockey player and I honestly believe the sky is the limit for him.
“Nicholas Tremblay, another big, smooth skating defensemen, came a long way over the year and then there is Landon Deforge, who probably played the most minutes out of any forward on our team in every situation and he was fantastic. For a first year kid to carry that kind of load, it was special. (Deforge) is a special kid with a special future … if the OHL teams are not looking at him, they should be, as his hockey IQ is off the charts.
“As for the other ’03 players, (forward) Jesse Dupuis is a small player with a huge heart and a tremendous skill set in terms of hands and vision. And Pierre Racicot and Dez Brazeau are two young forwards who tirelessly worked on their skills over the year and we are hoping they will be ready for a bigger role and more minutes next year,” Perry added.
Perry also noted the contributions of several other Majors who went out and did their job in admirable fashion.
“Defenseman) Jeremy Jeffries is another kid who has been on this journey with us for two years and he gave us some big minutes this year. Then there were (defenseman) Keaston Blais, who is a first year kid and did a great job and gave us some good minutes over the year and (goalie) Connor Johnson who was a great back up as a rookie, giving us a chance to win when called upon … and on top of that he is a great teammate and great kid.
Perry also singled out forwards Sebastien Sutherland and Brady Hartwig.
“Sutherland overcame huge adversity this year after losing half of his finger (to injury during a tournament game.) He came back in our lineup in the new year and played his best hockey the last three weeks in terms of competing … he is highly skilled. And Hartwig is a third year player who we signed at the deadline from Saskatchewan … he was a great addition and he added some poise and compete to our lineup.”
Perry waxed philosophical when talking about the Timmins program as a whole as it strives to make strides in the Great North.
“I can go on and on about these players … it is not easy to change the narrative of being part of losing programs but they did their best this season. We are a work in progress as a program … we will continue to work to try to build a program that is competitive year in and year out and try to drop the attitude of being okay with mediocrity.”
Looking back, then ahead, Perry summed up that he is “proud of our guys. I am exhausted from the season and excited to enjoy some rest and relaxation with my newly born daughter and recharge the batteries and get ready for next fall’s camp.
“I love this game and I am proud of where I am from and hopefully the Timmins Majors will get to where they belong in the upper tier of the league in the coming years,” summed up the born-and-raised Timmins product.