PORT HAWKESBURY: The Junior Pirates, currently battling for one of four playoff berths in the Sid Rowe division, managed two wins in three games since Wednesday of last week.
“We went to Cumberland on Wednesday with 12 skaters, and played really well to pull off the win in overtime,” said David Marston, Pirate coach. “On Friday, we had a full squad. We had a six-to-eight minute lapse in the second period where they [Cumberland] scored a couple goals on us, but we battled back.
“Last [Sunday] there were a lot of reasons why we didn’t pull it off. Three games in five nights is a lot of hockey for anyone, especially Stymest, our goalie, who had to be pretty tired by the time that third game rolled around.
“We have three games left, and we have to pull out a couple wins to feel comfortable. Cumberland and Pictou have five games left, and you can’t expect them to lose them all. Both teams have a game in hand on us.”
As Marston indicated, the Pirates are one of three teams in the Sid Rowe who are pretty much deadlocked. The Strait, along with the Cumberland County Blues and Pictou Scotians, all have 31 points. Indeed, the Antigonish Bulldogs aren’t that far ahead of the pack, as they have 36 points on the season.
The Pirates have a tough – though certainly not undoable – path to a playoff berth, as they play the Bulldogs this Friday (7:30 p.m.) in Port Hawkesbury, visit the Glace Bay Miners next Monday, and then return to the Port Hawkesbury Civic Centre to host the Miners on Friday, February 10.
Glace Bay is the number one team in the league, but the Pirates were plagued with injuries and a short bench all season. With a few bounces and a full roster, Marston said the Strait can turn some heads.
“We have three games to turn a tough year into something, hopefully, we can remember,” he said.
On Wednesday of last week, the Pirates skated to a 5-4 overtime win at the expense of the Cumberland County Blues.
The Blues put up quite a fight, as they fought back to tie the game three times before the end.
Pirate Floyd MacDonald (from Peter Drohan and Mitch Warner) had a Strait goal with 1:25 remaining in the first, and Nathan Hayes (from Warner) followed suit at 7:06 of the second. Cumberland’s Keegan Marcott and Patrick Byrne replied after that, tying the game at 2-2 before Randon MacKinnon (from Drohan) scored with 2:15 left in the second.
The third period saw Cumberland’s Dalton Turner score at 1:16, with Pirate MacKinnon (from Riley Keeling and Jason Bollivar) reply five minutes later. Scoring mid-period was Cumberland’s Hayden Boutilier to force overtime.
Warner had his third point of the night with 3:03 remaining in overtime when he connected on a Hayes and MacKinnon setup. The goal was on the power play as Blues player Patrick Byrne was nailed with two minutes for slashing.
Pirate Matthew Stymest faced 52 shots and Blues goalie Pierrick Heudes was also busy, facing 49 shots.
In addition to the hockey action, the Strait raised $850 for a Cumberland County player who was injured during a game earlier this season. The Pirates handed over the dough during their visit.
“That’s the second highest donation so far,” Marston said. “The league donated $1,000, and we donated $850. Pictou donated $500, and the Junior A Ramblers gave $500. I’m sure there’s going to be more rolling in. Their actual benefit isn’t until next week.”
The Cumberland player was injured during a December 2 game against the Pirates, and he and his father visited with Marston and the Strait players prior to the game.
Pirates rally back
A three-goal second period buoyed the Blues to a 3-1 lead last Friday, when hosting the Pirates for their second game in three days. Despite the lead, the Pirates evened the score at 3-3 at the end of 40 minutes.
With that, the Strait connected for a three-goal period of their own in the third.
Scoring was spread out for the maroon and white, with MacKinnon (a goal and an assist) and Bollivar (two assists) leading the way. Also putting the puck in the net were Hayes, Morgan Timmons, Max Morrison, Duncan MacInnis, and Warner. Joseph MacDonnell and Dawson MacLean had assists, as did goalie Stymest, who was also busy contending with 41 shots.
Pirate shooters sent 47 shots in the direction of Blues goalie Heudes.
Bulldogs strong at home
With four unanswered goals bridging the second and third periods, the Antigonish Bulldogs handed the Junior Pirates a 6-2 loss last Sunday night.
The first period saw Warner (from Timmons and Bollivar) and Stephen Sisco (from Troy Hillier and MacDonald) connect for the Pirates, while Logan DeYoung (from Tyler VanOirschot and Shawn Long) and Riley Scott (from Josh Cunningham and Keith Leadbeater) found the back of the net for the host Bulldogs.
Scoring for the ‘Dogs later in the game were Giovanni Akeson, Matthew Laing, Brian MacDougall, and Taylor Leger.
With just 16 seconds played in the third, Pirate Duncan MacInnis and VanOirschot threw some knuckles.
Stymest faced 30 shots for the Strait, and Jesse Gillis faced 26 for Antigonish.