When Matthew Barron turned 20 years old on March 25, his dad – who also happens to be his Yarmouth Mariners coach – noted he went from “filling our water bottles to drinking out of them way too quickly."
Indeed, the Mariners Centre has long been a familiar place for Barron. Growing up in Yarmouth and playing minor hockey here, as a kid he helped out with the junior A team when his dad Laurie was, at that time, an assistant coach.
Now, for a second straight year, Barron and his teammates are playing in the Eastlink South Division Final playoff series against the South Shore Lumberjacks. Last year the Mariners defeated the Lumberjacks in five games to win the division final. They later lost in Game 6 of the best-of-seven league final to the Edmundston Blizzard.
The Mariners are hoping for another crack at the league title too.
If it seems like Barron has been playing on the Mariners forever, there’s good reason for this. This is Barron’s fourth season with the team. He first laced up with them during the 2015-2016 season when he was 16. Before that he played major midget and major bantam.
Next year if he’s back again with the Mariners – and he says that’s the plan – it’ll be year five.
Barron has always been an important contributor to the team and this season that’s especially true. He finished the 2018-2019 regular season with 31 goals and 41 assists for 72 points, which put him at the top of the team for points, goals and assists and placed him third overall for points in the MHL.
But Barron doesn’t claim all of the credit. He says none of what he accomplishes he could do without his line mates and teammates.
Asked what he thinks he best contributes to the team, Barron says, “My offensive game for the most part. I’ve had very good line mates to play with and we’ve contributed very well in the offensive end. But I think I play a pretty good defensive game too…I like to think I’m a pretty complete player.”
As for how he’s seen his game evolve over the years, Barron says he definitely feels more comfortable every year.
“When I came in I was 16, it wasn’t always easy, being the young guy. The more time you’re here the more confident you get.”
Barron is not just a hometown kid on the team, he’s a fan favourite. It’s been that way since his first season.
It’s not surprising.
Back on Jan. 8, 2016, for instance, when the Yarmouth Mariners had an overtime win over the Valley Wildcats, the OT victory had a familiar feel to it. Scoring the 5-4 winning goal was the 16-year-old Barron on a breakaway goal.
It was the fourth time that season the Mariners had gone to overtime and the fourth time that Barron had netted the OT winner.
And let’s not forget the time, as a rookie, he scored the winning goal on an overtime penalty shot to give the Mariners the 7-6 victory over the Woodstock Slammers after the Mariners had twice come back from behind to tie the game.
An overtime goal this year – not one scored by Barron – is something he points to as one of his favourite moments of the season. Rookie teammate Cade Neilson scored the OT goal in Game 3 of their semifinal series against Truro.
“It’s just a huge swing from being up 3-0 in the playoffs to going down 2-1 when you’re going back to their home rink,” he says.
Barron is proud that the Mariners finished the regular season a second consecutive year in first place in their division – not an easy thing to do, he says.
Asked what role he sees himself playing with the team, he says he tries to be vocal.
“Whether I’m yelling from the bench or on the ice, I’m just trying to make the game easier for everyone. The easier you make it for guys, the better they’re going to play. Even if it’s just an easy thing like talking, it can go a long way,” he says.
Also going the distance has been his family, who he says has always been supportive of him, particularly his sister Natalie, who is definitely his biggest fan.
Barron admits it can be a difficult at times when your father is also the head coach.
“But at the end of the day he’s the coach and you’re just a player so you just do what he says,” he says.
When the Mariners, a few weeks back, brought out all of the billet families onto the ice as a show of thanks, Barron’s family was there too. On a photo of himself he had signed for his family he wrote, “Thanks for everything over the last 19 years.”