PORT HOOD: The Valley Wildcats made an early exit from the Nova Scotia Major Midget Hockey League play-offs last Saturday, and it was all because of the Cape Breton West Islanders.
“We didn’t take them lightly,” said Islander coach Nick MacNeil, chatting to The Reporter last Sunday afternoon – approximately 24 hours after his team scored a game four win, wrapping up the best-of-three series 3-1.
“We just put one foot in front of the other and kept going. We’re playing with confidence right now, and hopefully we can take that into our next series.”
Last Friday, game three saw the Islanders eked out a 2-1 double overtime win in the Valley’s barn. The Saturday final [game four] was 7-3, also played on the Valley’s home ice. The series began the weekend before in Port Hood, with each squad pulling a win.
Game one was a 3-2 overtime win for the Valley. Game two was an odd outing, with the Islanders capitalizing on multiple Valley breakdowns to run up a 10-2 win.
“After [game two] the guys had a new level of confidence,” MacNeil said.
“Friday night’s game [game three] was back-and-forth, and it could have went either way. I felt in overtime we were handing it to them pretty good. We killed off a penalty, got a power play, and we capitalized.
“On Saturday, we came out a little flat but we told them, if we keep playing like this, we’re going to lose the game. The second period was wicked, and we finished them off in the third.”
On Friday night, the first two periods were scoreless. With 2:05 played in the third, Islander Lowell MacDonald (from Darren Waterman and Dell Welton) put the score at 1-0. The Valley scored just three minutes later, setting the stage for overtime.
MacDonald once again pulled the trigger in OT, as he scored in the second overtime on a feed from Matthew Raike and Neil MacLean.
Islander goalie Kenzie MacPhail stopped 28 of 29 shots.
The Valley had a one-goal lead after the first 20 minutes on Saturday, but the Islanders launched 17 shots on net in the second – scoring on five of them.
Matthew Ellis (from Sam Grant and Jason Johnson) popped a short-handed goal with 3:30 played, and he added a power-play goal (from Daniel Gillis and Raike) at 6:15. The Valley tied the game mid-period, but Lewis Taylor (from Waterman and Welton) scored on a power play with 7:24 remaining. It was Daniel LeBlanc’s turn to score with 1:57 remaining, from Ellis and MacLean.
With 1:11 left, Raike (Ellis and Luke Hadley) popped his first of the game.
In the third, Raike rounded out a hat trick by scoring two late goals. The first was scored with 7:05 left (from Ellis and Gillis) and the second came with 53 seconds left (from LeBlanc and Dave Matthews).
MacPhail faced 26 shots.
The Islanders will now face the Cole Harbour Wolfpack in the second round. The first two games of the best-of-five series are this weekend in Cole Harbour. The remainder of the games will be in Port Hood. Game three is Friday, March 22, at 7 p.m. Games four and five (if needed) will be Saturday, March 23 at 3 p.m. and Sunday, March 24 at noon.