PICTOU: Although they are currently battling the very tough Cape Breton West Islanders, the first round of the Nova Scotia Major Midget Hockey League (NSMMHL) playoffs proved you’d be well-advised never to count out the Pictou Weeks Midgets.
The Weeks (having placed fifth in the regular season with a record of 20-15-1-2) entered the playoffs against the fourth place Cole Harbour Wolfpack (23-12-2-1). While the teams looked to be fairly evenly matched on paper, the Wolfpack managed to rally for a 3-0 series lead before Pictou found their sea legs.
Despite having to fight their way back into the series, the Weeks advanced to challenge the regular season champion Islanders in the second round.
“The boys really just kept going and didn’t give up,” said Bryce Reynolds, one of two Port Hawkesbury guys wearing Pictou jerseys. Reynolds and Matthew Raike are regulars in the Weeks lineup.
Coming back from a 3-0 series deficit, said Reynolds, is a feeling that’s hard to put into words.
“It was almost too good to be true,” he said, adding that the Weeks had to work hard every shift to pull off the comeback. “We needed to get alot of traffic in front of their net because their goalie is pretty good. Most of our goals came off a screen, and that paid off.”
The Islanders, Reynolds said, have two of the best goalies in the league, so Pictou’s battle plan will likely entail pressuring and screening in order to generate scoring opportunities. If they put the work in, he said, good things should happen.
“We’re clicking pretty well,” he said, adding that everyone knows where their teammates will be on the ice. “You don’t think twice. You just know that the other guys are going to be there.”
The Weeks needed overtime — more specifically, overtime and a Gavin Hart goal with 3:21 left in the first overtime period – to take down the Wolfpack on March 8, giving the Pictou crew a 3-2 win and the right to advance to play Cape Breton West.
The first game of the series was on February 25, and the Wolfpack won 5-3. The following day, Cole Harbour managed a 4-2 win, giving them the first two games.
The series resumed on March 4, with the Wolfpack winning 7-5.
However, on March 5, the Weeks pulled a 6-5 win (with Reynolds assisting on a second period G. Blackmore goal). The winning continued on March 6 when the Weeks managed a 4-1 final, putting Cole Harbour further back on their heels. That game, Reynonds had the game winner in the second period along with a helper.
On March 7, the Weeks scored a 3-2 overtime win, with Reynolds managing a helper on his crew’s first goal of the game.
Garnering the series win left the boys over the moon, Reynolds said.
“I was on the ice, and it was amazing,” he said. “The place erupted. You couldn’t hear over the sound of everyone; it was so loud.”
This is the first full year in the Major Midget league for Reynolds, who played Midget AA last season. He caught the eye of a Pictou coach last season, and was tapped on the shoulder not long after that. He was invited to play at the early bird tournament with the Islanders, but instead said he’d like to get released and play in Pictou.
It’s also the first year for Raike, who played with the Nova Major Bantams last season.
Next weekend, Reynolds and Raike and the rest of Pictou will welcome the Islanders as the second round series continues.