These are exciting times for Spink twins, Tyson and Tylor, and their adopted triplet, Kyle Baun.
The three Colgate University freshmen have found their way on the U.S. college hockey scene. Thanks partially to their play the Raiders, who have eight rookies this season, went on a 5-1-1 run before the semester break and now find themselves ranked 20th and tied with Harvard in the latest top-20 USCHO.com poll. The trio has combined for eight goals and 19 points in the last four games.
Baun, the grandson of 1964 Toronto Maple Leafs Stanley Cup-hero Bobby Baun, hails from Toronto. The identical five-foot-10, 185-pound twins are from Williamstown, Ont., near Cornwall. They began playing on a line together two years ago, when Baun found a new hockey home with the Cornwall Colts of the Canadian Central Hockey League, a tier II junior loop in Eastern Ontario.
"We played together on and off in Cornwall," the six-foot-two, 204-pound Baun said. "It's different playing with them. They kind of do their own thing. They've been playing together for such a long time they know where each other are and will be.
"I try to get them the puck and let them do their own thing. I'm a bit bigger, so I try to be physical and get them the puck."
The 20-year-old Baun remembers the first time he played on a line with the twins, who turn 20 on Dec. 31. "It was cool and it has been a lot of fun since."
Baun has become to the Spink brothers what Alex Burrows has been to Henrik and Daniel Sedin with the Vancouver Canucks. The Spinks and Baun have enjoyed quite a bit of on-ice success - the Colts advanced all the way to the league final only to lose in a seventh game to the Nepean Raiders last spring - and have become good friends in the process.
In fact, Baun spent time in Cornwall this week with the twins and other former Colts teammates. There were games planned for the frozen pond in the backyard of the Spinks family home, along with 16-year-old Tanner Spink, who is in his first full season with the Colts.
"We started playing on that pond when we were two," Tyson said.
"We've developed a strong friendship with Kyle. Sometimes you take your teammates for granted. We don't take Kyle for granted. We have something special with him."
It was only natural that the three wound up at Colgate, along with another Cornwall teammate, Mike Borkowski of Kanata, Ont. They had other offers, but they immediately liked Colgate's campus, what the Hamilton, N.Y., school had to offer, and were excited to play for long-time Raiders coach Don Vaughan of Almonte, Ont., and his assistant Brad Dexter of Kingston, Ont.
It also didn't hurt that Ottawa Senators forward, and Colgate alum, Jesse Winchester is a friend of the Spink twins. The three often train together under local Cornwall fitness guru Jeff Gibbs.
"Jesse has been great to us," Tylor said. "I guess you could say he pushed us toward Colgate and he's pushed us in the gym and to get better on the ice."
The twins are serious about their hockey. They haven't used their likeness to play the odd prank on a teammate or a coach.
For the most part, the sons of Kathy and Kenton Spink have played on the same line all their lives. There was a half-season in bantam when their coach split them up and last year Tylor was hampered by shoulder and knee injuries that forced him to miss 22 regular-season games.
But they obviously are better when they play together.
"It's hard to explain," Tylor said. "We've been playing together so long we just know where each will be. We have a sixth sense. We don't have to call for the puck from each other and Kyle gives us space to let us do our work."
"We're the same type of player," Tyson added. "We've been playing alongside each other for so long we have that familiarity. It's an advantage."
Is it an advantage to spend so much time with one another or do they get on each other's nerves?
"Most of the time we get along," Tylor said. "There obviously are times we don't. A few times we go back to the bench and say 'you should have passed to me' or should have passed to him. But it doesn't last long. I think it's good that we play together. We've become good together and we push each other."
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