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End of the road: Valley Wildcats bid goodbye to five players as season comes to end

Makail Parker pushes his way through traffic in front of the net. The 20-year-old Valley Wildcats captain, who is from Newport, will end his junior A career this season.
Makail Parker pushes his way through traffic in front of the net. The 20-year-old Valley Wildcats captain, who is from Newport, will end his junior A career this season. - Gary Manning

BERWICK, NS - In hockey, both players and teams are always looking to the future.

The Valley junior A Wildcats were a young team this season, with an average age of 18, but five 20-year-old players will graduate at season’s end: Brett Tidman, Tarek Paranica, Matt Hermary, Drew Packman and team captain Makail Parker.

Head coach Travis Young says the club was lucky to have such great veterans this season.

“We had a good group; a good mix of what they bring to the table,” Young said.

Matt Hermary, who spent more than a month recovering from a concussion, skates up the ice in one of his final games as a Valley Wildcat.
Matt Hermary, who spent more than a month recovering from a concussion, skates up the ice in one of his final games as a Valley Wildcat.

From Coquitlam, BC, Hermary was gearing up for a season with the Melfort Mustangs in the Saskatchewan junior A league when he found out he had been traded to the east coast on Aug. 12.

“I was pretty shocked by that trade,” recalls Hermary. “My options were to play junior B at home or come out here, and I knew if I came out here I’d be a top six kind of guy. That was one of the big things that brought me out here, knowing I would get that kind of playing time at a junior A level.”

Hermary had already scored 15 points for the Wildcats when he took an elbow to the head on Dec. 29 in a game against Amherst. He suffered a concussion that took him out of the line-up for well over a month.

“When he went down, that really hurt us,” says Young. “We were matching him up against other team’s top lines. Doing that, he didn’t put up the numbers he’s probably capable of, but he really bought into that role and did a great job.”

Hermary says sitting out was a long and frustrating process.

“It is frustrating, thinking you’re alright, then you come to the rink and you’re getting symptoms again,” says Hermary. “I never knew when I was going to be able to practice again. It was tough to watch, but you have to take care of your head. Concussions are an injury not really like any other one. You need your brain for the rest of your life, no matter who you are.”

Finishing off his junior hockey eligibility with the Wildcats, Hermary says he’s not ready to stop playing hockey just yet.

“Travis and Chucky are working hard to put the word out that I’m looking for a place to play and go to school. I’m hoping that can pull through, but if not, it is what it is,” he says.

Valley will also graduate Paranica, who joined the team in the previous season. The native of Grand Forks, North Dakota stepped into any role he was given with the Wildcats and excelled, some nights playing on the top line, and other nights killing penalties. Young says Paranica was always reliable.

“Tarek always comes to the rink and wants to get better, and hopefully that will lead to an opportunity to continue playing in the States,” he said.

Young describes Packman as a “godsend” in his ability to do everything. Packman, acquired from the Pictou County Weeks Crushers during the off season, was a two hundred pound defensive forward throughout his MHL career. He spent most of this season playing defence for the Wildcats, a position he hadn’t played since bantam hockey.

“Coming into the year, we had no idea he could play defence, but it was out of necessity due to injuries, and just the inexperience we had back there at the start of the year,” says Young.

“I think he solidified things and gave us that veteran presence we were lacking. He was a key guy for us, played a lot of minutes, matched up against other team’s top lines and did a really good job in that role this year.”

Tarek Paranica, left, and Brett Tidman, right, keep an eye on the puck, hoping to take advantage of any Yarmouth stumble. Both players ended their junior A career with the Wildcats.
Tarek Paranica, left, and Brett Tidman, right, keep an eye on the puck, hoping to take advantage of any Yarmouth stumble. Both players ended their junior A career with the Wildcats.

Locals age out

Tidman, a Kingston native, is one of two local players aging out. Third in team scoring, Tidman has spent many seasons in a Wildcats uniform, having played for the major bantams, major midgets, and junior A teams. Young coached Tidman in Bridgewater with the South Shore Lumberjacks, and was glad to have him again in Berwick.

“Brett’s a big physical guy. He can shoot the puck, and scored some big goals for us this year,” says Young. “It’s good to see a local guy take on more responsibility as he gets older, and I thought he had a solid year for us.”

The final junior A Wildcat aging out of the program is Parker, the team captain. He was the team’s marquee off-season pick up from the Miramichi Timberwolves. Family and friends came to watch the Newport, Hants County native play all season long, and his speed and skill brought them out of their seats many times at the Apple Dome.

 “Coming here is awesome,” says Parker. “I love the fan base here. It’s home for me, and it’s awesome. I love the Valley and love being home.”

Young says Parker provided a lot of leadership, and Parker himself says he enjoys helping his rookie teammates.

 “It was a challenging task leading those younger guys and showing them the ropes of the league,” he said. “Helping them advance their game so I can come back and see them play at a higher level. Being able to help them out is awesome. Giving them the drive to go out and be better each shift.”

Parker is a student at Acadia University, and hopes to make the jump to university hockey in the future.

 “I know (Acadia head coach) Darren Burns. Me and him go back a couple of years. I’ve helped him coach his hockey programs in the summer. And I know some guys in the city who are currently coaching at Saint Mary’s University,” Parker said. “Hopefully, I end up somewhere. Talking to people to see where my best interests lie. And if I get an offer, we’ll go from there.”

The Wildcats wrapped up their season with a home-and-away series against South Shore, missing playoff action.

If you go: The final game of the season is March 10 against South Shore, with the puck drop at 7 p.m. at the Apple Dome in Berwick.

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