Ty Barnstable is back where his junior A career started.
On Jan. 2, the rookie was dealt to the Portage Terriers, the Manitoba Junior Hockey League champs, for Taylor Sanheim as the Penticton Vees coveted the experience Sanheim has after being released from the Calgary Hitmen in the Western Hockey League.
“Taylor is a hard-nosed, physical player, who brings plenty of experience with him and we feel those elements will help solidify our forward group as we gear up for what hopefully will be a long playoff run,” said Vees coach-GM Fred Harbinson statement.
At the time, Harbinson said trading a player of Barnstable’s quality wasn’t easy.
“Ty had done everything we asked of him and he was a very popular teammate during his time here, and that speaks to his character and maturity. He’s going to an excellent program in Portage and we wish him all the best with the Terriers.”
Barnstable’s reaction wasn’t surprising when told the news.
“It was a little disappointing. They are a great organization,” said Barnstable. “I have a lot of good buddies on that team.”
He knows that he is in a good place that also has a winning culture. He stays in touch with his former teammates and exchanged congratulations after winning their respective league titles.
In his first game as a Terrier on Jan. 6 against the OCN Blizzard, Barnstable scored. Then he went pointless for four games. It was the longest pointless streak the five-foot-nine, 161-pound forward would endure the rest of the season. He said it took him a few weeks to get comfortable and settled in. Once he got used to his bigger linemates, Josh Martin (six-feet, 185-pounds) and Ty Enns (six-feet, 175 pounds), things got better.
“Pucks started to go in, I gained confidence,” said Barnstable, adding he became more open in the room.
He also led the Terriers with 10 playoff goals in 18 games. In the regular season he had 12 goals and 21 points in 24 games.
Terriers coach-GM Blake Spiller said he also became a leader and Barnstable was named an assistant captain just weeks before the MJHL playoffs began.
“He plays a lot of key minutes for us in all situations,” said Spiller. “His addition gave us more depth at the top and really helped us to be a more consistent team.”
“It’s obviously a huge honour,” said Barnstable of his A. “It doesn’t really change much of my game or what I do in the room.”
Barnstable has continued improving his understanding of the game and where he needs to go. He has also learned to find openings when he doesn’t have the puck.
“In junior it’s a little tougher. Everyone is good,” he said. “You have to find ways to get the puck.”
Barnstable isn’t sure what it will be like to face the Vees Thursday night, but views them as “just another team.”
He’s enjoying being back, but the trip can be even sweeter if it results in winning the Western Canada Cup or at least earning one of two berths to compete for a national championship.