PORT HOOD: In a game where more than half the scoring was done on special teams, the Dalbrae Dragons managed to endure a six-on-three player disadvantage at the end of their league championship to win the Cape Breton West High School Hockey League banner.
“It was a lot closer than we hoped, but they’re a good team and they have a lot of skilled players,” said Dalbrae coach Jesse MacLean, following a 6-4 win over NDA/CBHA on Tuesday of last week.
The league championship was a one-game finale.
“The second period was a little rough for us, but we got back in the room, regrouped, and came up with a new game plan,” MacLean said. “We came out and pushed in the third. It came down at the end to a five-on-three and we had two of our top defenseman in the box, but good teams find a way to win.”
The first period saw Alexander Hawley manage a pair of goals, one shorthanded and one at even strength, to give the Dragons a 2-0 lead. The first goal came at 3:37 and was assisted by Cullen MacEachern, Dalbrae captain. The second was at 9:50 and was set-up by Mitchell Murphy and Brad Chandler.
The second frame, especially the last minute or so, was huge for NDA/CBHA. At 5:28, Will Fraser (unassisted) broke down the left wing and used a wrist shot to make the score 2-1. Dalbrae’s Mark MacDonnell (unassisted) lifted his team to a 3-1 lead when connecting on a man-advantage from the mid-slot with 3:07 left.
However, NDA/CBHA’s Matthew Hinkley (with 1:21 left) and Daniel LeBlanc (on the very next rush, with 1:02 left) both connected to tie the game at 3-3 going into the third.
The Hinkley goal was unassisted and on a powerplay, and the LeBlanc goal was set-up by Broderick Murphy.
Dalbrae’s power play was a factor once again at 1:31 when Chandler (from Hawley and Keegan Freimanis) beat NDA/CBHA backstop Steeve Lefort to give Dalbrae its second lead of the game. Also on a man-advantage, NDA/CBHA’s Mitchell Dilosa (unassisted) cut from the left wing to rifle a shot at Dalbrae goalie Cameron MacMillan. The score was once again tied 4-4.
With 4:12 left in the frame, Dalbrae’s Mark MacDonnell (unassisted) picked up the puck in the neutral zone, glided past the blueline, and used a slap shot to earn the game winner.
“They usually go around the net and try to make a stretch pass, so I intercepted that and capitalized on my opportunity,” he said. “It was a great feeling to go out in my hometown barn on a high note.”
A pair of hooking calls late in the period hurt Dalbrae, as Rory Gillis was sent to the box at 2:24, and MacDonnell was sent as well, with that penalty called with 44.4 seconds remaining. NDA/CBHA already had their goalie pulled, by the time MacDonnell was given his minor.
It looked like NDA/CBHA might find a goal to force overtime, and once again a goal on special teams proved to be the deciding factor. However, it was a shorthanded goal from Dalbrae’s MacEacehrn (unassisted) that rounded out scoring. That goal was an empty netter that came on a clearing attempt with 14 seconds remaining.
The win served as a tune-up for the Nova Scotia Student Athletic Federation Division III provincials that took place last weekend.
“We got a great group of guys in the room here, and everybody really came together after our win in Richmond at the Rock Ya Like a Hurricane [tournament],” said MacDonnell. “We’re not even at our peak yet.”