Plymouth — Killing a penalty, just past 3:30 of the second period Friday night in a USHL game against Green Bay, USA goalie Dylan St. Cyr collected a puck behind his net.
St. Cyr, a U-18 player in USA Hockey’s elite National Team Development Program and Michigan commit next season, spotted teammate Brady Tkachuk open near the Green Bay blue line.
He turned and rifled a long airborne pass.
It carried all of the way to Tkachuk, who had just one Green Bay defender behind him. Moments later, after a nice cross-ice pass from Tkachuk to Josh Norris, the U-18 USA squad was up 3-1.
Sitting in USA Hockey Arena, St. Cyr’s mother was pleased. But she was neither surprised nor overly impressed.
The only woman to play in the NHL, Manon Rheaume is well aware of her son’s abilities.
“That’s a big strength of his, playing the puck,” said Rheaume, the former goalie who played two periods for the Tampa Bay Lightning during the exhibition seasons of 1992 and '93.
“On the PK, he usually clears the puck. But the teammates know that. So they’re going to stop for the pass, if they see the play.”
Rheaume and St. Cyr, who have lived in Northville for several years after her five-year professional career, both know about striving for success in hockey against some stubborn odds.
The women’s game has expanded considerably in the past 25 years, including the establishment of the National Women’s Hockey League. But women have not followed Rheaume to the NHL.
And St. Cyr is a quality goaltending prospect, capable enough to have drawn Michigan coach Red Berenson’s attention. He is eligible for the 2017 NHL draft.
At 5-foot-8, he faces a considerable challenge.
It has been long time since anyone that short played goalie in the NHL, although, at 5-feet-10, Jhonas Enroth has played 35 games for three teams the past three seasons.
“Oh, I’m extremely proud,” said Rheaume, who coaches girls for Little Caesars Hockey. “You know, Dylan is a very strong, substantial goaltender who can handle a lot of pressure.
“And, it’s funny, he’s facing a little bit like what I was facing. I was the only woman playing with the men. But with his size, you know he’s a smaller goalie, and he’s always facing the adversity of proving himself.
“And he’s been doing great. He’s playing well.”
St. Cyr won his second USHL Goalie of the Week honors this season, for his performance over the weekend.
For St. Cyr, who played in the Honeybaked youth hockey system in Metro Detroit, having a mother who was an NHL goalie is a big help. And it also helps that his dad Gerry St. Cyr had a long professional career in the minors, including for the Colonial Hockey League Flint Generals and ECHL Toledo Storm.
“I remember putting on little plastic skates growing up in California and rolling around on the hardwood floors, shooting up the walls,” he said. “That’s how it started and, no surprise, having two hockey parents, it just runs in the blood.
“They both know the lessons of what you need to learn and how to get where you want to be.”
St. Cyr’s dreams are a little different from his mother’s. Rheaume had a different arrival in the NHL.
“I didn’t have the dream of it because I never saw a girl play in the NHL before,” she said. “I think I just continued to be in the right place at the right moment and the opportunity just came up.”
To Rheaume, playing goalie is fun. Watching your son play goalie? Not so much. Too nerve-wracking.
Her other son, Dokada, 10, is a defenseman, this season.
“It’s hard for the parent of a goalie,” Rheaume said. “It’s a lot more stressful than a player.
“It’s fun as a goalie. But as a parent, it’s totally different, because you don’t have that control.”
Gerry St. Cyr describes his son as naturally talented, smart and quite capable of choosing his own direction with success.
“He does everything well,” the father said. “We’ve had a few conversations, but I try to let him make his own decisions.
“You try to guide them as much and as little as possible.”
Kevin Reiter, an assistant NTDP coach, describes St. Cyr as “an ultra competitive kid” with high goalie and hockey IQs.
“He plays the puck very well,” Reiter said. “So, we’ve just worked on getting him a little more under control and being patient.”
St. Cyr described it as, “Just trying to keep my feet as much as possible and reading the plays, because as a smaller goalie you want to try to make yourself look as big as possible in scenarios and stuff.
“If you can stay on your feet, or just staying big to react to the puck while you’re on your feet, it makes it a lot easier.”
As for St. Cyr's diminutive stature, Reiter said he tells him, “Height doesn’t measure heart.”
For St. Cyr, an honors student at Northville High, it is a challenge met with simple considerations.
“It’s stuff that’s out of your control and you try not to worry about it too much,” he said. “But you also have to make up for it.”
He has hopes for the NHL draft, but says that is for another day.
“Just try to look into the now, and play the games that are going on in front of you,” he said.
His mom considers that wise.
Rheaume also makes certain her son hits the books.
It is something his future coach Berenson will appreciate, too.
“Because it’s important,” Rheaume said.
“He’s got a great work ethic in hockey and also in school, and he knows school is important. So, I’m not only proud of him in hockey, being a good student, too.
“He’s rounded. For a mom, you can’t ask better than that.”