YORKTON - The Yorkton Junior Terriers are celebrating 50 years in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League this season.
To mark the milestone Yorkton This Week is digging into its archives and pulling out a random Terrier-related article from the past five decades of reporting on the team, and will be running one each week, just as it originally appeared.
This feature will appear weekly over the entire season in the pages of The Marketplace.
Week #20 comes from Dec. 16, 1992.
Gino Santerre and Sandy Gasseau have adapted nicely to American college hockey at St. Cloud State.
The pair, both from Quebec, played for the Yorkton Terriers from 1989 to 1990, a stint that included a league championship and trip to the Centennial Cup in their final year. The two have followed that accomplishment with scholarships to the Minnesota college where they are midway through their sophomore year.
“It was quite a change, not having gone to school in Yorkton, and learning the language,” said Gasseau of the leap to college hockey. “And it was a big change for hockey too. It’s a lot faster. It was a big adaptation.”
Part of the change was a system heavy on practice and light on actual games. A full season is only 34 games, but practices are an almost daily routine.
“I’d like to play more games,” said Gasseau. “It’s good to practice two to two-and-a-half hours a day to work on skating and everything, but it’s better to play more games. That’s when you improve your play a lot.”
Santerre would have settled for the 34 games. He took a bang on the knee that required orthoscopic surgery in his last year as a Terrier. Last season at college, the knee required major surgery. Santerre was in therapy the rest of the year.
“It was hard,” he said. “I was 21 and they expected me to play. I expected to play too. It was my first year, I wanted to make a good impression, but for a while I didn’t think I was going to play hockey again.”
But he’s back playing regular shits on defence, as well as time on the second powerplay unit and in short-handed situations.
“It’s going pretty well. I haven’t scored yet, but I have seven assists,” he said. “I’ve had to come back and get used to doing things I use to do without thinking. With only a couple of games a week you don’t get back into it as fast.”
It also takes a different mindset when you play only two games a week. “The concentration is a lot different when you practice all week for two games,” said Gasseau. “You really have to do good in those games. It’s not like the Terriers where you could do something about a bad game the next night.”
Playing in the SJHL helped prepare the pair well.
“We played on a couple of pretty good teams in Yorkton, and Dennis (Polonich) made us work pretty hard and that helped with the mental toughness,” said Santerre.
Last year St. Cloud finished seventh out of nine teams in the WCHA, a position Gasseau said might have been higher if not for a bunch of injuries.
But for Gasseau, it was a good year as he played every game, ranging from stints on the fourth line to time on the number one unit.
“I just tried to stay in the lineup all the time,” he said. “The coach gave me confidence. He knew I played junior and had experience so he fit me right in.”
Last year Gasseau popped 15 goals, but this year goals have come a little slower. After 14 games, he only has five.
“I’m kind of in a slump. I started with three goals in four games, but only have five now. There’s not much I can do but keep working. I’m getting the chances, it’s just not going in right now.”
But scoring is essential to Gasseau being effective in the St. Cloud scheme of things.
“We’ve talked (with the coaches) and they want me to be a little more involved – to play more physical, to be intense and use my body. They want me to work hard and not worry about the goals.”
For both Gasseau and Santerre, spots on American college teams are what they were looking for when they left Quebec to play for the Terriers.
“We were told to go play out west because there was a better chance of getting a college scholarship,” said Santerre.
Now both hope they can just play two more solid years to perhaps open a professional door, either here or in Europe.
“A chance in Europe. I’d really like that. That would be a good experience,” said Santerre.