A small high school reunion for a trio of Crocus Plains graduates is happening in Lac La Biche, Alta., this season.
For the last three years, Brandon-based hockey players Dustin Hyde, Jesse Linner and Taylor Wells pursued junior hockey careers in different provinces. Hyde was playing Junior B with the Cold Lake (Alta.) Ice, while Jesse Linner was in Ontario playing with the Superior International Junior Hockey League’ Dryden Ice Dogs. Taylor Wells, meanwhile, skated in the Manitoba Junior Hockey League, with stops in Winkler, Dauphin and Portage la Prairie.
All three, however, have ended up in Lac La Biche and will be teammates this season with the Portage College Voyageurs, who compete in the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference.
Hyde, a 6-foot-0, 170-pound goaltender, hadn’t seen the other two for four years, but he’s glad they’ve all ended up in the same place.
“It’s like we haven’t been apart in four years,” he said. “I haven’t seen these guys in four years and since we got together it’s been a pretty good clique going on.”
The three Brandonites all had solid careers in their respective leagues. Linner, a 5-foot-10, 183-pound forward, capped his tenure in Dryden with 16 goals and 45 points in 52 games last season, while Wells, 5-foot-10, 185-pound forward, had seven goals and 24 points in 50 games with the Portage Terriers last season. For his part, Hyde posted a 20-5 record last year in Cold Lake with a 2.90 goals-against average and a .904 save percentage.
Although they hadn’t seen each other for a while, they weren’t surprised with the convergence at Portage College. Hyde committed to play there first and was talking to Linner, who said he and Wells were also planning to commit. The three have rented a house and are now living together.
The Brandonites are having a blast so far in Alberta, and Voyageurs head coach Jim Knight is glad to have them on board.
“I’m really happy,” he said. “I saw Dustin last year at Junior B provincials when he was playing for the Cold Lake Ice and I got to meet him then. Taylor comes recommended pretty good from his coach in Portage. I talked to a couple other Manitoba coaches about him and so far I’ve seen him practice and I’m very happy.
“Jesse, coming out of the Superior International League, I’ve got two of his ex-teammates here that played in Dryden a couple years ago. They told me all about him and it’s worked out pretty good. I like what I’ve seen so far and they’re working hard, which is really nice at the start.”
Hyde will study power engineering and Wells is going for a natural resources diploma, while Linner is currently upgrading classes.
For Hyde, school is his main focus, but he also wants to have a little fun on the ice and help Portage College improve on its 12-14-2 mark from last season and get past the first round of the playoffs.
“Hockey’s important, but I’m here for school,” he said “I’m here for my education so I can start making some money. For hockey, I want to just get in there and not make a fool of myself.”
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition August 31, 2013