Brandonite Dylan Haney and Carberry product Jordan Robertson certainly received a fresh perspective on each other last winter.
The two athletes played together this summer in the Andrew Agencies Senior AA Baseball League with the GW Vacuum Truck Service Young Guns, and were also teammates with the Manitoba Junior Baseball League’s Brandon Marlins for two years. They were even hockey teammates for two seasons with the Grand Forks Border Bruins of the British Columbia-based Kootenay International Junior Hockey League.
But last winter, the two forwards played against each other eight times as Haney’s University of Jamestown Jimmies met Robertson’s Minot State University Beavers in American Collegiate Hockey Association Division 1 action.
"Playing against him, he’s a dangerous scorer, he can put the puck in the net, but he makes his presence known out there," Robertson said of Haney. "He’s a pretty chippy guy and he’s not afraid to finish his hits and use his stick on you. He’s a tough guy to play against but he’s also an offensive threat."
"It was pretty tight," Haney said of the eight games. "I know it sounds cliched, but he’s one of those guys you love to have on your team and hate to play against. This was kind of the first time I played against him so we had our battles but we left it all on the ice. It was fun."
They would occasionally meet at centre ice for warmups to have a quick chat, but then it was all business. Usually after the game they would often have a few more words.
Jamestown won the opener 3-2 on Oct. 4, with Haney drawing an assist, but Minot State had the Jimmies’ number for the next five games.
On Oct. 5, the Beavers won 2-1 in a shootout with Robertson out of the lineup, the only time either player missed one of the matchups. In Minot State’s 3-2 win on Nov. 16, both had an assist and Robertson took a penalty.
Neither hit the scoresheet in Minot State shutouts, 1-0 onNov. 17 and 2-0 on Dec. 7, and Haney drew a penalty in Minot State’s 4-1 victory on Dec. 8.
The Jimmies finally got back in the win column as Haney was credited with an assist in a 6-3 victory on March 7, but he took a penalty a night later in Minot State’s 2-0 win. A potential ninth game was cancelled.
Haney may have recorded two more points than Robertson, but Minot State took six of the eight games, plus a national title with a 3-1 victory over Iowa State University 3-1 on March 26.
"It was awesome," Robertson said of the championship. "It was a pretty good feeling after losing in the finals in my last year of junior. I think we were the underdogs coming in this year, which made it a lot more special."
They started the season ranked second, dropped to 18th and entered the tournament at sixth.
The two will have just one more season to skate against each other.
Haney, 23, just completed his second year of school, and is set to graduate next spring.
After suiting up for 19 games and producing 12 points in his rookie season as he proved himself, Haney played 32 this year, scoring 13 goals and adding eight assists while drawing 74 penalty minutes. That came with more playing time and opportunity on special teams.
Each season there, Haney’s expectations for himself grow.
"Obviously with another year, I’m hoping to raise my stats but as a team we’ve been knocked out of the national tournament in the first game both years we’ve attended so hopefully this year we can go there and win something because I’m looking to graduate early so it would be nice to go out with a bang."
Haney spent the 2015-16 and 2016-17 seasons with the Border Bruins, scoring at nearly a point-per-game pace, but admitted the move to a college hockey was a steep one.
"There was quite a bit of transition," Haney said. "You go from playing 50 to 55 games to 25 to 35 games so it’s different that way. You’re only playing on the weekends so have a lot of time during the week to prepare and get ready. If you’re not winning games, you’re not going to win the national tournament."
There was also the little matter of the classroom. He’s majoring in criminal justice with a minor in business marketing.
"In junior you’re going to the rink and then coming home and playing video games all day," Haney said. "Getting back into school was good. You go the rink and then you have your classes, and then practices. You work around it. You have to keep up your (grade point average) so you have to do well in school, but you’re playing the game you love so it’s all right."
School starts for Haney on Aug. 26, with training camp kicking off a day later.
His work commitments have only allowed him to play handful of ball games this summer, but the duo was together with the Young Guns on the weekend to play in the Senior AA provincials in Rivers, where they reached the semifinals before losing to the champion Pilot Mound Pilots.
Haney doesn’t remember playing hockey against Robertson growing up, although he does recall them meeting on the ball diamond before Robertson started playing in Brandon in bantam.
"I think Minot State was a great place for Robo, and I think if we weren’t going to win the national tournament, I was happy Jordan won it," Haney said. "That was good to see."
Robertson, 21, who finished his KIJHL career with the Revelstoke Grizzlies after a trade, piled up 119 points in 120 career games in the league. Last season in Minot State, he had two goals and 15 assists in 37 games.
"It was a pretty big jump actually," Robertson said. "Going from the KI, there are a lot of younger guys, it’s a younger league, so when I was a 20-year-old, I was playing against a bunch of younger guys and usually bigger or faster or stronger. Jumping to college, it’s playing against men, so you have to be aware at all times."
He also admits it was a struggle to get back into the academic rhythm, although he says he did adjust to his studies, which include a major in criminal justice and a minor in law and legal studies.
He also had to become accustomed to skating against his buddy.
"It’s fun," Robertson said. "It’s usually a bit of a bigger game against each other and I usually know where he is on the ice. It’s fun to get to play against him and usually makes it a little more interesting."
School starts for him on Aug. 27, so he’ll return a few days early. Training camp begins in early September.
He’s also hopeful that he can do more for his team this year. Robertson noted he put up better numbers in junior, and was sometimes scratched from the lineup last year. He wants more this season.
"I wasn’t looking for the offensive part of my game in the first year, I was just filling that role and helping out where I could because we had the older guys who were talented up front," Robertson said. "I’m hoping to put up more offensive numbers and replace the guys that we lost."
He got an extra taste of higher competition this summer he never would have expected.
Robertson played with the Young Guns, and was unexpectedly called up to the Expedition League’s Wheat City Whiskey Jacks as they had more than a dozen players leave late in the season. He enjoyed it.
"It’s awesome," Robertson said. "It’s fun to see the talent that there is out there and play against these guys and see how you match up. I’ve had a great time. They’re all good guys and it’s fun to be out here in front of a big crowd."
» Twitter: @PerryBergson