PORT HAWKESBURY: It’s a whole other season now.
This Friday night, the Strait Pirates will enter into the Nova Scotia Junior Hockey League (NSJHL) playoffs against, arguably, the very best team from the regular season, the Glace Bay Miners.
The Miners finished the regular season at 26-6-0-2, good for 54 points. The East Hants Penguins of the NSJHL’s Fred Fox Division closed out the season with an identical record. For the Pirates’ part, the Strait closed out the regular season last weekend with a record of 14-16-3-1.
The Miner/Pirate series begins this Friday at the Port Hawkesbury Civic Centre. The puck drops at 7:30 p.m.
“The uniqueness of the league allows us to have home ice for the first game, and we aren’t complaining,” said Taylor Lambke, Pirate coach.
“We just want to stick together as a group and make it a good series. We’re really just coming into our own as a team. I think it was important to get some wins down the stretch and develop some confidence.
“It’s a matter of getting one win on them, and I could see our confidence level jumping.”
On paper, the Miners are certainly going into the series as the favourite, but it’s worth noting the Pirates have been on a tear the fast few weeks.
Since January 23, the Pirates have won five of their last seven games. They also pushed the Liverpool Privateers to overtime, and the one regulation time game they lost took place last Sunday, just hours after the Pirate bus went off the road and down an embankment.
“We had quite the experience on the way to the game, so it’s no wonder the boys were shaken up,” Lambke said. “We had a full bus of guys, and we hit some ice just outside Trenton. We put the bus in the ditch, and we had to shuffle the players over to the game.
“It makes you feel good that you live in the Maritimes where people come out of their house and just help you.”
That game proved to be a 6-4 loss to the Pictou Scotians. A three-goal third period on the Scotians behalf cemented the win, and Jordan Moss and Joshua MacMillan led Pirate scoring with a pair of assists each. Ryan Lawless, Avery Warner, Nicholas MacGillivary, and Jackson Beck put the puck in the net, and Matthew Stymest backstopped the Strait, facing 46 shots.
Last Friday, the Pirates visited the Cumberland County Blues and won 7-2.
Devin Sceles led the Strait with a pair of goals, and also scoring were Warner, Josh Foster, Bryce Reynolds, Christian Papineau, and William Stewart. Peter Kopf faced 30 shots.
Now, with the start of the series against the Miners looming, Lambke said shutting down Glace Bay’s top line will be key. With that, relying on scoring from all Pirate lines will be central. Also, having Strait fans show up to cheer on the maroon and white would do great things for morale.
“We want the fans to come out, cheer us on, and the boys will play hard,” Lambke said. “It’ll be a fun series.”