PORT HOOD: History was made last Friday night as, for the first time ever, the Cape Breton West Islanders won the Nova Scotia Major Midget Hockey League (NSMMHL) provincial championship.
“I’m just proud to be a part of it,” said Coach Kyle ‘Duke’ MacDonald. “You see the guys work hard all year, in practices and games, and seeing them rewarded like this is great. It’s a part of history. This is the first time that Cape Breton West won it.”
The Islanders swept Dartmouth’s Steele Subaru Major Midgets in three straight games, the last of which took place Friday night (March 24) at the Dartmouth Sportsplex. The final was 4-3. The second game of the series was also a one-goal affair, with the Islanders winning 2-1 at home. Both outings went to overtime.
The first game was a 6-1 final for the Islanders in Port Hood.
“From the outside, it looks like we rolled along easily, going 10-1 through playoffs, but some of the games were tight and could have gone either way,” MacDonald said.
“Dartmouth took us to overtime twice, and I think our guys have been tested and are well-prepared for Atlantics.”
The Islanders will soon be off to the Atlantic championship. The event is hosted by the Miramichi Rivermen, a team the Islanders beat 4-0 on October 30. The game was part of an interlocking schedule between the NSMMHL and its counterpart in New Brunswick.
Also set for action at Atlantics are the Moncton Flyers, the St. John’s Maple Leafs, and the Kensington Wild.
Cape Breton West dropped St. John’s on January 13 at the East Coast Ice Jam, an event the Islanders won. Moncton got the drop on the Islanders 4-2 on October 29 in inter-league action, but the Islanders were without the services of Avery Warner that time out. Warner led regular season scoring for the Islanders with 54 points in 34 games. The Wild and the Islanders haven’t yet played.
Having a crack at the Atlantic championship is thrilling, said Islander captain and Playoff MVP Jacob Hudson.
“We made history, and we’re looking to make some more because we’re not done yet,” he said. “If we rally together and work hard, as we’ve been doing all playoffs, we can win it.”
MacDonald agrees that winning Atlantics is certainly possible. He and the team leave for Miramichi on March 29.
“It’s a realistic goal to win the tournament,” he said.
Bringing home an Atlantic championship would certainly make for a great story, but the story of claiming the provincial championship is pretty great too.
Tone set in game one
The Islanders used a five-goal first period to pave the way to a 6-1 victory at the Al MacInnis Sports Centre in game one of their best-of-five championship series. The game took place on March 21.
The Islanders set the tone early, scoring three quick goals in the first five minutes of the game. Spencer Barron (from Jack Morris and Keenan Gillis), Logan Chisholm (from Hudson and Stephen Fox), and Logan Timmons (from Gillis and Barron) all put the puck in the net, necessitating a change in goalies for Dartmouth at 4:48. Dartmouth goalie Nolan Boyd came in to replace starter Stewart Bagnell, who returned to the ice later in the period.
“We came out just flying,” said Hudson. “We scored three quick ones, and just kept rolling. We won that one 6-1, but we knew the next games would be tough. We knew they’d be coming harder.”
Once Bagnell returned, Logan Chisholm (from Hudson and Fox) and Malcolm MacEachern (from Jacob Stewart and Calum MacPherson) found the back of the net to make it 5-0.
The second period saw Dartmouth come closer to getting on the scoreboard, but Islander Colten Ellis turned away all shots. Midway through the third, Dartmouth’s Ozzie King broke Ellis’ shutout.
With 7:37 left in the game, Hudson (from Chisholm and Fox) rounded out the Islander scoring.
The Islanders outshot Dartmouth 39-22.
Game two ends in OT
Timmons (from Warner and Craig Ryan) connected just 43 seconds into the first overtime period to lift the Islanders to a 2-1 win in the second game of the series, this one taking place on March 22 in Port Hood.
Also scoring for the Islanders was Warner (from Gillis) with 2:33 played in the third. That goal gave the Islanders a 1-0 lead they nursed until Dartmouth’s Noah Laaouan took advantage of a power play halfway through the frame.
Ellis faced 23 shots, and Boyd faced 29.
Series ends in sweep
A three-goal second period gave the Cape Breton West Islanders a 3-1 lead going into the final 20 minutes, but 3-1 is called the most dangerous lead in hockey for a reason. Dartmouth rallied back to force overtime.
With 49 seconds played in the second, Ryan (from Ryan MacLellan and Warner) scored, and he was followed exactly two minutes later MacPherson (from Matthew MacNeil and Malcolm MacEachern).
Dartmouth’s Luke Henman took advantage of a power play with 7:04 played, and with 7:33 left in the frame, MacEachern (from Jacob Stewart and Gillis) made it 3-1.
The third period saw Noah Laaouan and and Luke Henman score at 6:32 and 6:38 to tie the game.
Coming up big in the extra period was Hudson (from Fox) who beat Dartmouth’s Boyd with 2:34 left on the clock. It was the 39th shot Boyd faced on the night, as Islander Ellis faced 29.
Hudson said scoring the goal was unreal. The play began with a rush that saw him take the puck into the offensive zone.
“I gave it to our defenceman, and he passed it back,” Hudson said. “I put a shot on net, and the goalie saved it. A defenceman tried to clear the puck, but he fanned on it and chipped it right onto my stick. Fortunately, I got another quick shot off and it went in the top corner.”
Hudson said he was pleased to score the go-ahead goal, but he was also pleased to have everyone wearing Islander colours contribute to the win. That includes the folks in the stands, he said.
“You got so much support – your teammates, your family, your fans,” he said. “You’d look up in the stands and see all the mothers there with our home jerseys on – it was an amazing feeling. Having so many fans come up to support us was just like having an extra player on the ice.”
He said he and all the Islanders wish to thank the community – including family, fans, coaches, etc – for their support.