Islanders lead Major Midget league

Islander Matthew Raike (centre) gets a shot away during recent action at the Al MacInnis Sports Centre. He’s pictured here with Luke Gould (left) and Dylan Chisholm.

PORT HOOD: It’s early, sure, but with five games played in the Nova Scotia Major Midget Hockey League, the Cape Breton West Islanders are currently the number one squad.

“With a 3-1-1 record, we’re very happy,” said newly minted coach Nick MacNeil. “I think the best is yet to come for us. We could surprise a lot of teams this year. We just have to keep working hard and stay on the right page.”

Last Wednesday night, the guys visited Membertou for 60 minutes of hockey with the Cape Breton Tradesmen. The Islanders used a big third period to take a 5-3 win.

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The Islanders, down by two goals in the early going of the last frame, saw scoring from Matthew Ellis (from Sam Grant), Matthew Raike (unassisted), Dylan Chisholm (from Raike), and Grant (from Dell Welton).

The Ellis goal was on a power play, Raike and Chisholm scored shorthanded goals, and Grant managed an empty netter. Goalie Kenzie MacPhail faced 30 shots for the Islanders, who were outshot 30-29.

Welton (from Jason Johnson and Ellis) also scored in the second.

“In the first game of the year, we gave up three goals in the last period, but we learned from that,” MacNeil said. “These last couple of games, we focused on making the third our best period.”

MacNeil is filling big shoes, as outgoing coach Kyle “Duke” MacDonald led the Islanders to a national championship two season ago. However, MacNeil is no stranger to big games himself, as he’s a veteran of Quebec Major Junior play, university hockey, and the East Coast Hockey League. He also was an assistant coach for the Islanders last season.

“I’m going to take some of the stuff I learned over the years and try to help out the kids as much as I can,” he said.

The Islanders and their counterparts in the NSMMHL are off this weekend, as there’s a pre-tournament for the Canada Games in Dartmouth. Islander goalie Kenzie MacPhail is attending, along with a number of other Major Midget players from throughout the league.