They had been expecting to be linemates this season—but Graham Dyck and Kyle Turgeon didn’t anticipate they’d have to go to Portage la Prairie, Man. to do it.
Dyck, 20, from Atikokan, and Turgeon, 19, of Fort Frances had played for the Fort Frances Jr. Sabres from 2007-09, and were counting on being paired together for the 2009-10 SIJHL season.
But the Sabres folded over the summer, and general manager Wayne Strachan sent the two in different directions: Turgeon to the MJHL’s Portage Terriers and Dyck to the MJAHL’s Miramichi Timberwolves.
“It had to be done,” reasoned Turgeon. “The coach’s hand was forced because they were folding, and they wanted to get the money for all the players before they actually folded.
“It was kind of sad,” he lamented.
Still, Turgeon credited Strachan with consulting the players as to where they’d like to continue their junior careers. Turgeon suggested the Terriers, the two-time defending league champs.
Turgeon and Dyck were reunited Jan. 10 when the Terriers acquired the latter from the Timberwolves at the trading deadline, and Turgeon acknowledged he had a hand in helping Terriers’ coach Blake Spiller come to a decision.
“Blake was asking about him, and asked what he was all about,” recalled Turgeon, who has tallied 11 goals and 17 assists so far this season.
“I told him that Graham was what Terrier hockey is all about. He plays tough and plays night in and night on, and that’s what we wanted, so Blake went out and got him.”
And Turgeon feels Spiller made the right call, bringing Dyck into the friendly environment in Portage.
“It was the same thing for him, it was good to see a familiar face,” noted Turgeon. “When he came in, I picked him up at the airport and brought him in.
“All the guys took to him pretty well.”
Dyck noted he was seeking a trade back to the SIJHL to get closer to home, but getting to line up with an old friend was nearly as welcome.
“Kyle’s one of the reasons I was really excited to come,” enthused Dyck. “He made it a lot easier, just having one guy that you know already to introduce you to the guys and stuff.
“He really made it a lot easier for me.”
But those introductions were about all the two connected for early on as the night before Dyck was acquired, Turgeon took a knee-on-knee hit in a 5-2 loss to Waywayseecappo, causing him to miss a month of action.
“When I came to Portage, I was hoping to play together on a line, but he [Turgeon] was injured for the first month,” Dyck remarked.
“But the coach said that as soon as he got back, we would be on a line together.
“The first game he came back, it was like we never stopped playing together,” Dyck added. “We played really well, we fed off of each other, and he’s one of my favourite players to play with, so it was really exciting for me.”
Both Turgeon and Dyck consider themselves to be defensive players. In fact, Turgeon was recognized for his ability to shut down opponents’ marquee players when the team named him and linemate Stephane Pattyn co-recipients of the team’s defensive player of the year award.
“It’s a great honour,” said Turgeon. “We’ve done everything from penalty-killing to shutting down top lines. We’ve done it all.
“Every team in this league has a good line, so when you keep them off the scoresheet, like [top-ranked] Dauphin’s guys, you know you’re going to have a chance to win,” he stressed.
Turgeon was groomed to shadow top players in the SIJHL last year, but also contributed on the scoreboard, notching 19 goals and 25 assists in 45 games.
“Last year with the Sabres, I played kind of the same role,” he recalled. “We played against top lines, but we’re expected to score, too.
“It’s good to have both roles.”
Dyck also relishes being a grinder alongside Turgeon, having already racked up 45 penalty minutes in just 17 games with Portage.
“We’ve been in the other end, the offensive end, a lot just because we have a lot of speed on our line,” remarked Dyck. “We just get pucks deep and hit everything we see, and try to keep pucks on the boards, cycle the puck, and crash the net.
“It’s nothing pretty. We just work hard,” he remarked.
Turgeon has been on fire since returning from his injury, netting three goals in five games. But while his knee didn’t need surgery at the time of the injury, Turgeon has been advised to go under the knife during the off-season.
“It gave me a scare, but I finished the rehab and things seem to be going all right now,” he reported. “[The rehab] wasn’t too intense.
“It was a lot of getting strength and stability back.”
As of press time, the Terriers, who finished second overall in the MJHL, were trailing their first-round series to the Swan Valley Stampeders 2-0.
Turgeon had a glorious chance to even the series in Sunday night’s 2-1 overtime loss, but Stampeders’ goalie Jayme Janzen was able to stymie him with an even better save.
“I got robbed in overtime and they scored the next shift,” bemoaned Turgeon.
“It was a one-timer, back door, and he dove across and got it with his glove.”
Dyck is in his final year of junior hockey, but Turgeon has one more year of eligibility and is open to returning to Portage next season. The Terriers have only five players graduating in the off-season.
“We’ve got a really good team here, and we’re a young team, too, so a lot of guys are going to be back next year,” Turgeon enthused.