Canadians captain York-bound
Lively’s Matt Neault to lace up with university team while enrolled in health studies
It has never been Matt Neault’s style to let the game come to him, but that’s exactly what happened last month.
The Lively native and recentlygraduated Rayside-Balfour Canadians captain had turned down opportunities to further his career in the United States and had all but settled on playing in the Greater Metro Hockey League, which accepts 21-yearolds, while studying firefighting, when an unexpected text caused him to change his plans.
“About a week and a half ago, I’m sitting at camp and I get a text message,” recalled Neault, reached at home on Wednesday.
It was from Russ Herrington, head coach of the men’s hockey team at York University in Toronto. Neault had spoken to Herrington a few times during Rayside’s run to the NOJHL final this past spring, but hadn’t figured much would come from those conversations right away.
“He asked me what I was doing for hockey, then we got talking more and more and he offered me a spot on their team,” Neault said.
“It was a simple choice for me. I have always had that dream of playing university hockey after major junior didn’t work out, so it was just a no-brainer to take that spot with York.”
Neault plans to take health studies at York. He still has a long-term goal of fighting fires.
“I have been in contact with a couple of fire chiefs and they have told me with what I’m getting out of York University, just go get a degree and then, when I apply for firefighting jobs, that degree will help out a lot.”
Praised for his heart and hustle through 268-game junior career, Neault set a record last December for the most regularseason games in NOJHL history. He had his best-ever offensive output in 2018-19, with 21 goals and 28 assists in 56 games.
Neault added nine points in 18 games during Rayside’s trip to the NOJHL championship, where they lost a hard-fought series to the Cochrane Crunch.
Neault called it the best season of his hockey career, even if it didn’t end as he hoped.
“It was just a great group of guys and we were really close as a team,” he said. “Making it so far, but coming up short, it kind of leaves a sour taste in your mouth, but I wouldn’t change it for anything, with the group of guys we had.”
He may get a chance for another deep run soon. York is coming off a second-place finish in the OUA West in 2017-18 and is expected to ice another strong squad this fall.
Neault hopes his work ethic, energy and penalty-killing ability will help him earn ice time as a rookie.
“I know, coming in as a firstyear guy, I won’t be played as much as I want to, but I’m going to take that role as an energy guy, help out the team as much as I can and hopefully, win a championship.”
York is to open its regularseason schedule against the University of Toronto on Oct. 3.
Rayside-Balfour Canadians' Matt Neault stands in front of Cochrane Crunch goalie Shayne Battler during NOJHL action at Chelmsford Arena on Saturday, April 14, 2018.