MIRAMICHI: After earning a place in history as the first Cape Breton West Islander team to win the Major Midget provincial championship, the local boys pulled off one spectacular encore performance.
They now have a banner from Atlantics.
“All the work we’ve done all year has finally paid off,” said captain Jacob Hudson, speaking to The Reporter last Sunday from the bus heading home. Only hours earlier, he and the Islanders were celebrating a 3-2 win over the Moncton Flyers for the 2017 Major Midget Atlantic Championship.
“It’s an unbelievable feeling for our group because we’re from small communities, and you wouldn’t expect small communities like ours to beat a city like Moncton, but we did just that. It’s an unbelievable feeling.
“We scored two quick goals during the first period, and then they came back with two. Matt MacNeil ended up scoring the game-winner in the second, and from then on we just held them. We blocked shots, took our hits, and fired everything we could at them to come out with the win.”
Hudson had the first-period goals for the West, and Colten Ellis earned the victory in net.
Last month, the Islanders made history when winning their first-ever Major Midget provincial title by sweeping Dartmouth’s Steele Subaru Major Midgets in a best-of-five series. The win earned the Islanders their first-ever berth in the Atlantic championship.
Coach Kyle ‘Duke’ MacDonald also spoke to The Reporter from the bus and defined the Sunday afternoon win as a very proud moment for his team.
“This was our goal from the start of the season, to go to Prince George, B.C. [the site of the upcoming TELUS Cup, Canada’s national midget hockey championship taking place April 24-30]. We felt like it was something we were capable of doing, and to do it feels pretty good,” the coach said.
“It’s been a tiring last few days, and I’m not sure if it sunk in yet, but it was a pretty big stage to be on.”
The four other teams attending Atlantics didn’t make things easy for the Islanders, although the West did have a great showing in their first two games.
Last Thursday afternoon, the PEI champion Kensington Wild was unable to handle the Islanders. The final was 6-2. Avery Warner and Logan Timmons both had two goals for the West, with Fearghus MacDonald and Logan Chisholm also scoring.
On Friday morning, the Moncton Flyers challenged the West. Moncton was coming into the tournament as one of the favourites, but they were unable to hang with the Islanders this time out. Hudson and Logan Chisholm both contributed two goals and Dylan MacDonald also scored in a 5-1 Islander final.
However, the Islanders were unable to do as well later that day when taking to the ice against the St. John’s Maple Leafs. The Leafs won 4-1, with Hudson managing the only Islander goal.
“Friday was our toughest day,” said MacDonald. “Within a couple of hours, we had to play twice. There was only about an hour and a half between games, and we just didn’t have the jump.”
On Saturday, the Islanders took to the ice for their final round robin game – a critical outing against the Miramichi Rivermen. The hosts managed an early lead, but the West found their second wind and just didn’t look back.
“We underestimated Miramichi a little bit,” said Hudson. “Going into the second, we said this is do or die. We went out and played phenomenal the rest of the game. That motivated us to win the whole thing.”
The final was 8-5 for the West. Warner and Stephen Fox both connected for two goals, and scoring singles were Hudson, Timmons, Chisholm, and Spencer Barron.
Both Hudson and MacDonald said the team owes a great deal to the Islander fans who made the long drive to Miramichi to cheer on the boys.
Having that sort of loyalty did great things for team morale, they said.
“They were all in the stands cheering as loud as they could,” the captain said. “They were getting a ‘Go, West, Go’ chant going. Our fans were louder than theres, and it was their province. We owe it all to them. It was like an extra player on the ice.”
The Islanders will now prepare for the big trip west at the end of the month.