PORT HAWKESBURY: The Strait Pirates had an awfully tough draw in the first round of the Nova Scotia Junior Hockey League (NSJHL) playoffs and, four games later, the powerhouse Glace Bay Miners advance to the second round at the Pirates’ expense.
“None of us wanted to be out of the playoffs this early, but it is what it is,” said Taylor Lambke, Pirate coach. “We were up 3-0 in two different games, but we lost both of them. There were some growing pains but a lot of things we learned we can carry forward.
“Losing in the first round is one thing, but the disappointing part for me was that we never got to play them with the team we wanted. Some guys were away on spring break. It’s disappointing.
“If we had our full team, I think we’d still be playing right now.”
The Miners’ size was one thing that made them hard to contend with, Lambke said, as the Glace Bay guys are big on the backend and up front. Experience and age were also in the Miners’ favour. With that, clearly, having a shortened bench paid no dividends in the long run.
The Pirates might have lose the best-of-seven series in four straight, but the play was more competitive than the results might imply.
Game one (February 16) was a 5-2 Miners win, but it came after the Strait ran up a 3-0 lead. Game two (February 17) had the Miners in the driver’s seat, with a 7-2 final. Game three (February 23) was a 7-1 final, but the Strait returned to their A-game last Sunday, when they ran up a 3-0 lead but still lost 7-5.
Leading scoring that game were Avery Warner, with two goals and an assist; Jordan Moss, with a goal and assist; Randon MacKinnon, two helpers; Joshua MacMillan and Olan Spears, a goal each; and Bryce Reynolds and Riley Keeling, a helper each. Goalie Matthew Stymest faced 49 shots.
Last Friday, Cody Hinkley (unassisted) had the lone Pirate goal on a power play in the third period. Stymest (stopping 23 of 29 shots) and Peter Kopf (stopping three of four shots) shared goaltending duties.
Coack Lambke noted that young players like Hinkley and Reynolds, along with Nick MacGillivary, have banked this season as a learning experience and, with age, the guys will be great players in the league.
“Bryce was probably our best forward all year,” Lambke said. “We got a lot of 98/99 birthdays that are going to be good, good players in this league. They are a blast to coach, and it’s going to be fun watching them grow and get more comfortable in the league.
“I just say thank you to the fans for supporting us all year. They got a good team coming in the future, and it’s something to be excited about.”