LISTOWEL – Last Friday was a dream come true for Carter Stewart.
The Listowel blueliner went to the Jr. B hockey game in his hometown with his dad Paul, just as he’d done countless times growing up, but this game was different: he played.
Listowel Cyclones head coach Dave Williams summoned him from the triple-A Huron-Perth Lakers in time for the Feb. 24 home game against the Owen Sound Greys.
“My dad and I would always go to the games because he was on the executive,” Carter said. “It’s been a dream of mine to put on that jersey and just thinking about it, it was unbelievable. I was pretty shocked. Just even O Canada, standing there looking up at the flag and everything, it’s something you always dream of doing.”
Defenceman Craig Johnson suffered a serious elbow injury recently, creating the roster spot on the back end. For Paul, it was an exciting moment to see his 16-year-old son wearing the white, red and black jersey.
“It was exciting to see him go to that next level and compete with them,” Paul said. “I wouldn’t say I was nervous. I was excited for him. He was really excited, I don’t think he was nervous at all. He did say he wanted to get the first shift over with.”
The Cyclones won 5-4. Carter played Saturday night for the Major Midget Lakers – his 1996 birth year is the Minor Midget age group, but he’s been called up several times, including for the current playoff run – then was notified that he would be joining the Cyclones for their regular-season finale in Owen Sound on Sunday. They won that game 9-4.
Williams missed Friday’s game while scouting a Jr. C game, but spoke highly of his performance on Sunday.
“The biggest thing for a guy coming from one level to another is probably moreso to keep things very, very simple, try not to do too much. I thought he did that on Sunday,” Williams said. “He took care of what he needed to take care of, advanced the puck into the forwards hands and defended hard.”
Co-captain and Carter’s defence partner Sam Patterson was ejected in the first period for fighting, leaving Williams with just five bodies on the back end. That meant more ice time for the rookie and a chance to be exposed to special teams.
“I got to see some PK time, then when we were up about 9-3 at the end of the game I got to go on the power play,” Carter said. “It was pretty good, compared to our league they sure work the puck. It’s all about moving it around and trying to get them tired out, I enjoyed it.”
He returned to the Major Midgets on Monday, the club’s final game as they were eliminated by the Waterloo Wolves. Other local players on that Lakers club include Wallace’s Ben Nelson, Thad Lucas and Jayden Landry, and Listowel’s Travis Bender and Ryan Goetz.
While there’s no guarantee, Williams said there’s a possibility Carter may be called up for the Jr. B post-season, which starts tonight (Feb. 29).
“I’m optimistic that he might be able to join us (for the playoffs),” the coach said. “He’s physically a strong kid, that’s usually the adjustment for guys coming from a lower level is the strength, I think Carter is physically strong enough to play at this level.”