PORT HAWKESBURY: Eleven periods of hockey.
That’s how long it’s been since the Strait Pirates, and more specifically Pirate goalie Cody Smith, let a puck across the goal line.
“The last time we allowed a goal was in the first period of game six against Antigonish,” said Taylor Lambke, bench boss of the local Junior club. “What a difference a week makes.
The Strait now lead their best-of-seven second round series against the Glace Bay Miners 2-0. This is a marked difference from what was the case at the midway point of their first round series against the Antigonish Bulldogs, who had the Strait teetering on elimination after four games. The Bulldogs led that series 3-1 before the Strait found their sealegs and battled back.
Game one against Glace Bay was last Friday, and the Strait handed out a 5-0 beatdown at the Civic Centre. Glace Bay was far more competitive in their barn the following day. That game was a 1-0 Pirate win.
“The more you take care of your own end, the more it leads to offense in the other,” said Lambke of last Saturday’s game. “Liam [MacKinnon] got one late, and we knew we weren’t going to give one up.”
The MacKinnon goal was unassisted and on the power play with 3:44 left in the third. Smith faced 32 shots for the Strait, and the Pirates outshot the Miners 41-32.
In the first game of the series, the Strait outshot the Miners 49-20. Smith was in net once again, and Branden Dauphinee led the Strait’s offense with a pair of goals.
Also connecting for the Strait were Joshua MacMillan, a goal and an assist; Randon MacKinnon, two assists; Taylor Pierce and Devin Sceles, a goal each; and Matthew Morgan, Sebastian Vella, Jacob Keagan, and Christian Papineau, all of whom had helpers.
“Everyone is buying in and doing the things we did all season,” the coach said. “We’re a tough team to play against right now. We’re making it really hard on them offensively to create chances. They have to try to get inside, and even if they do get bodies to the net, they still have Cody there to save the day.”
On March 12, the Pirates closed out their series with Antigonish. The final was 5-0.
The first frame saw Cullen MacEachern (from Avery Warner) and MacMillan (from MacKinnon) make the score 2-0 Pirates. MacEachern’s goal was at 3:59, and MacMillan scored at 14:19.
MacKinnon doubled up on scoring in the second, managing his first goal from Morgan and Brendan Kenneth Lanning with 7:29 played. His second came with 7:32 remaining. Setting up the power play goal were Pierce and Morgan.
Pierce (from Vella) added an insurance goal at 10:20 of the third.
Despite outshooting the Bulldogs 41-20, Pirate captain Matthew Morgan said at no point did he and the team feel it was safe to take their foot off the gas.
“In the last five minutes, maybe,” he said.
“The mind-set was the same tonight [during game seven] as it was in game five and six, just take it one period at a time and one shift at a time. They fought hard all series and never really gave us a chance to get ahead. We have a lot of respect for them.
“We were expected to sweep them, and they went up 3-1. They really showed that playoff hockey is a whole other thing.”
Game three takes place this Friday at the Civic Centre. The puck drops at 7:30 p.m., and Lambke said the Pirates are looking forward to entertaining their fans. He encourages folks to come out.
Game four is in Membertou on Saturday and, if needed, game five will be in Port Hawkesbury next Tuesday at 7:30 p.m.