Gutsy overage year for Warner

STEEP CREEK: Mitchell Warner’s overage year with the local Junior squad was, due to injuries and illness, as tough a season as a player could endure. Still, the young man from Steep Creek reports that he’s awfully pleased to have finished his Junior hockey days while wearing Pirate colours.

“I was injured for most of the season,” he said. “I came down with mono in November, and it really took the good out of me for the first half of the season. Then I came back in the second half and was injured right off the bat.

“My first game back in the second half, I went hard into the boards and my finger got stuck. There was enough force there to snap it — it almost came right off, but they sewed it back on. 

“It didn’t hurt all that much until the anesthesia wore off. I took two games off and then came back.”

Warner said, even though almost losing his finger sounds pretty horrible, his experience with mono left him twice as frustrated. For three weeks, he was unable to do anything besides sit home.

Indeed, while Warner’s situation was an extreme case, it wasn’t all that dissimilar from what a number of his teammates faced. Due to injuries, the Pirates were unable to maintain a full bench all season. With the reduced manpower, stringing together wins became a tall order.

In 34 games, the Pirates won seven in regulation time, two in overtime, and five via shootout. Warner appeared in only 15 games but managed four goals and five assists. Known for gritty and smart play, he served as an assistant captain. Several NSJHL observers looked at him as one of the best defensive forwards and PK men in the league.

“We still managed to make the playoffs, which was very close at the end,” he said. “We rallied in the second half of the year, and put together a good stretch. To be part of that was very fun. 

“I was playing with a broken finger and contributed an O.T. game winner and a shootout winner, and those were two highlights of my season right there.”

Warner played his minor hockey in the Strait-Richmond Minor Hockey Association. When becoming eligible for Junior, he started his Nova Scotia Junior Hockey League (NSJHL) days with the Pictou Scotians. He was acquired by the Pirates at the start of last season (2015-16).

Once he finished his schooling in Pictou, he came to Inverness County to work with Bell Aliant. Once he was back in the area, it made good sense to suit up with the maroon and white, he said.

“It was great to come home and finish my last two years with the Pirates — back home, where I belong,” he said. 

“I had a blast in Pictou too. We had some battles with the Pirates, my first two years, but I have to say it’s more fun to be a Pirate than to play against them.”

Warner said he looks forward to remaining friends with his Pirate teammates. He and the guys have had some great times off the ice, he said, and there’s no sense letting those friendships fall away just because he’s played his overage year.

He said he thanks fans for coming out to the games, and he also said he appreciates what the Pirate coaches and executive members offered him.