Brandon Hynes is shown in AUS hockey action recently with the St. Francis Xavier X-Men. — Erica Roberts photo
Brandon Hynes can’t remember the last time he finished a hockey season in February.
Even during his major midget days with the Western Kings, the campaign typically extended into March. Back in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, Hynes and his teammates would just be gearing up for the stretch run at this point.
But here Hynes sits, along with the rest of the St. Francis Xavier University X-Men, eliminated from the Atlantic University Sport men’s hockey playoffs in a mere two games at the hands of the University of Moncton Aigles Bleus.
“It happened quick,” said Hynes of the best-of-three quarter-final series. “Every series I’ve been in is a four-out-of-seven, so two games don’t really mean a whole lot, you’ve still got time to bounce back.
“Here, you lose two in three days and that’s all she wrote.”
The X-Men were the underdogs heading in — finishing with a record of 12-13-3 and 27 points, compared to Moncton’s mark of 17-11-0 and 34 points. The X-Men had won the season series 3-2, however.
The 20-year-old native of Norris Point was pointless in both playoff games, registering two shots and going -1 in each. The opening contest, on Feb. 19 in Moncton, was a close 3-1 loss. The second game, back at home on Feb. 21, ended in a 6-1 blowout for the visitors.
“I don’t know if you could pinpoint one thing that went wrong,” said Hynes. “They capitalized on every single chance they had.”
Nobody on the X-Men felt a positive outcome was out of reach — just the opposite, in fact.
“Everybody in the room knew we could beat them because we did it right after Christmas (a 4-2 win on Jan. 5),” he said. “I wouldn’t say it had anything to do with seeds. I learned pretty quick, in this league it doesn’t matter what seed you are or who you’re playing on any given night, it’s anybody’s game.”
As for his own personal playoff performance, Hynes knows most people will look at the zero on his stat line and assume the worst. For his part, he doesn’t think he played overly well, but wouldn’t say he played terribly either.
It was mainly a case of a player still new to a team trying his best to fit in during the most crucial time of year.
“I was just trying to go with the flow of whatever was going on on the ice,” he said. “Just playing our system and not getting outside of what each phase of our system was.”
During the regular season, he said, he may have taken a few more risks to get going offensively. In the post-season, particularly a best-of-three situation, he wasn’t interested in rocking the boat. He now chalks it up as another lesson learned at university.
“I can say that now,” he said. “I wasn’t really thinking about trying to cheat and score goals ... but a couple of bounces could have changed the series.”
Scoring in the regular season wasn’t a problem for the perennial sniper. He amassed 16 points (6G-10A) in 14 games, with 24 penalty minutes and 51 shots on net. The X-Men were 5-9 with him in the lineup, excluding two exhibition games in which they went 1-1.
A break in the action
This week was spring break for Hynes and other students at St. FX.
Many of his teammates went home for the holiday, but they will reconvene next week and get together for a couple of skates a week — nothing too intense now that their season is over.
Hynes will spend the remainder of the semester hitting both the books and the weights. His plan for the summer is to endure former coach Ben Fitzgerald’s training regimen in Corner Brook once again, so with six weeks until that starts, he believes he’ll be ahead of the game.
“I’ll already be six weeks into what he’ll be having me do,” he said.
But he’s still a little unsure of how to navigate the next few months as a student, and not a hockey player.
“I wouldn’t say I’m tickled pink,” he admitted. “It sucks that the hockey is done, but that’s the reality of college hockey.
“The ultimate thing is, you’re a student,” he said. “It’s an adjustment still.”
He does want to be back in an X-Men uniform in the fall though, that much is certain. Especially with St. FX hosting the University Cup national championship next year.
“It’s just another incentive to pass all my courses and make sure I’m able to come back,” he said.
He has already completed two out of three mid-terms, with the third coming on March 5. Final exams will then follow in April.
With so much downtime now, he admits it can be a struggle to put the time to good use study-wise, when the rink still beckons him whenever he walks by.
“I was out on the ice (Wednesday) ... shot some pucks,” he said. “Sometimes I find myself looking for other things to do — go to the rink, go to the gym — instead of sitting at your computer.
“In junior (hockey), you’re able to do it,” he added. “But here, if you’re not on top of your books ... it’s easy to fall behind. You have to use your time wisely.”