Islanders return to home ice with series tied

PORT HOOD: Managing a split when visiting one of the top teams in the league is something any coach would call a good weekend but, when that split comes in the first two games of a best-of-five playoff series, it’s hard to imagine any team not feeling pretty good about itself.

“It’s was a tough weekend, but it was what we expected coming up here,” said Kyle MacDonald, coach of the Cape Breton West Islanders. He and the team returned from Dartmouth last Sunday after going 1-1 against Dartmouth’s Steele Subaru Major Midgets in the first two games of their second round playoff series.

“Dartmouth is a great team, but we’re happy coming back to Port Hood with the series tied up. We had an excellent game today [Sunday]. We had contributions from all our players. It was a hard fought win.”

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The Saturday game was a 5-2 Dartmouth win, but the Islanders bounced back on Sunday to win 4-3.

“They [Dartmouth] certainly know they’re in a series,” MacDonald said. “We’re willing to do a lot of the gritty stuff some other teams aren’t willing to do. We’re hard to play against.

“We have great support from the local communities, and it’s going to be exciting to play in Port Hood.”

The Saturday game saw the teams deadlocked at 1-1 at the end of the first period. Stephen Fox (from Chase Ellis and Jack Morris) scored on a power play with 2:02 left on the clock to even things out.

The second period saw Dartmouth add two goals but, midway through the third, Sam Grant (from Matthew Ellis and Dell Welton) scored the Islanders’ second goal of the evening, making it 3-2. Dartmouth popped two more goals (one on a man-advantage) before the final whistle.

Islander Ewan MacDonald faced 21 shots. The Islanders outshot Dartmouth 26-21.

The Sunday game was a big one for Fox, who popped two power play goals inside the first two minutes of the third frame. That made the score 3-2 Islanders, when factoring in Jack Morris’ second period goal (which Fox assisted on). Assisting on Fox’s goals were the pairs of Fearghus MacDonald and Calum MacPherson along with Morris and Sean Stewart.

“This was a statement game for Fox,” the coach said. “He’s been checked really close this series, and he made a statement that it’s not going to be easy for Dartmouth to stop him.”

Welton (from Malcolm MacEachern and MacDonald) added a goal with 9:20 left on the clock, rounding out Islander scoring.

This time, Dartmouth outshot the Islanders 40-31, and Ewan MacDonald backstopped the Islanders once again.

The third and fourth games will take place this Saturday at 6 p.m. and Sunday noon. Both games take place at the Al MacInnis Sports Centre in Port Hood.