League-leading Halifax unable to handle Islanders

Islanders Luke Hadley (foreground) and Jack Morris do their best to contain a Cole Harbour player during Islander action earlier this season.

HALIFAX: Last year’s Telus Cup champions are sending a message that, once again, they can beat anyone in the Nova Scotia Major Midget Hockey League.

“In the last two weekends, we beat the top team in the league [the Halifax McDonalds] and we went one-for-one with the second place team [Dartmouth’s Steele Subaru Major Midgets],” said Kyle Gillies, the assistant coach of the Cape Breton West Islanders.

“It’s such a confidence builder for a young squad. That no-quit effort is what our program was built on. We’re holding on tight to third place, and the boys are getting better every day.”

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Last Saturday night, the Islanders trailed 2-0 in the first period when facing the McDonalds. The game ended in a shootout, with the West winning 6-5.

Due to goals by Joe Bouchard (just 25 seconds in) and Blake Chasse (on a power play), the host McDonalds took control early. The second period saw Stephen Fox score twice in less than three minutes to tie things up. At 12:19, Fearghus MacDonald and Graham MacDonald assisted on Fox’s first goal, and Fearghus and Dell Welton had helpers on his second, at 14:23.

The third period was a shooting gallery, with the Islanders holding the lead twice before Halifax forced over time.

Calum MacPherson (from Fearghus and Fox) scored with 2:45 played, and Halifax’s Bouchard had a shorthanded goal at 7:35 to make it 3-3. Jack Morris came through big-time at 8:00 (unassisted on a power play) and at 11:05 (from Sam Grant and Matthew Raike) to give the Isles a 5-3 lead.

McDonalds’ Sounthon Thammachack (with 4:03 remaining) and Aaron Brown (1:23 remaining, on a power play) scored to force overtime.

The Islanders were hurt by a slashing call just 16 seconds into the extra frame that sent Fox to the box for two minutes. Nonetheless, neither Islander Ewan MacDonald (facing 38 shots, game total) nor Keaghan Larade (facing 37 shots, game total) allowed a goal. A shootout decided the winner.

“One of the things that I have to give credit to the boys for is keeping their cool,” Gillies said, noting that being down 2-0 in enemy territory is always tough – especially when that enemy territory belongs to the top team in the league.

“Keeping your cool is something Duke [head coach Kyle ‘Duke’ MacDonald] brings to the team, and that trickles down to the players. We stayed positive, and we had a feeling that things would work out.”

Next weekend, the Islanders visit metro once again to play Cole Harbour (Saturday night) and Halifax (Sunday).