Strait Pirates gear up for biggest challenge yet

Managing two goals and an assist last Friday was Jacob Keagan, seen here putting the pressure on Pictou goalie Matthew Murray. The Pirates ended up winning 4-1. (Photo by Mary Hankey)

PORT HAWKESBURY: Old fashion smash mouth hockey was the 60-minute mission of the Strait Pirates last Friday and, after 203 penalty minutes, the maroon and white skated away with another divisional win, this one a 4-1 final against the Pictou Scotians.

“There were a few fights and some excitement in the game,” said coach Taylor Lambke, speaking to The Reporter last Sunday afternoon. “We had a nine-minute shorthanded situation in the first period, and we killed it off without giving up a goal. That was one of the most impressive things I saw in hockey in a long time.

“It was a good, old-time hockey game.”

In the first period, Taylor Pierce was throwing knuckles. In the second frame, Josh Foster duked it out with Pictou’s Campbell Burrows, and the third period main event was the Strait’s Devin Sceles seeing what Pictou’s Kirklin Murray had to offer.

On the offensive side, Pirate Austin Woodland (from Avery Warner and Sceles) scored early in the first, setting the Pirates at 1-0 until teammate Jacob Keagan (from Brendan Kenneth Lanning and Warner) popped a goal with 2:28 remaining in the frame.

After a scoreless second, Pictou’s Jacob Pentz slipped one by Pirate backstop Cody Smith early in the third. Smith stopped 25 of 26 shots, and his Pictou counterpart, Matthew Murray, faced 27.

Midway through the frame, Callum Jordan (from Keagan and Warner) scored to make the game 3-1 for the Strait. With just over three minutes left, Keagan (from Warner and Matthew Morgan) added an insurance goal.

“Whenever you play Pictou in that little rink in Trenton, they like to play that physical sort of game,” Lambke said. “We talked about that and said the next time they come back into our building, let’s throw that back at them.”

The Friday win leaves the Strait at 20-2-1, good for 41 points and a slim lead over the East Hants Penguins for first place in the Nova Scotia Junior Hockey League. The Pens lead the NSJHL’s Fred Fox Division with a 17-3-2-1 record.

The Penguins will be in town this Friday night for a 7:30 p.m. start at the Civic Centre.

Right now, there’s no better offensive team in the league than the Penguins. Led by Matthew Perruzza (68 points), Adam Perruzza (59 points), and Quinn MacDonald (55 points), the Penguins have 145 goals in 23 games.

On the flip side of that, the Strait Pirates have allowed fewer goals than any other NSJHL team: just 45 in 23 games. Both Pirate goalies, Smith and Peter Kopf, have put up league leading stats in terms of save percentage (.934 for Smith, .933 for Kopf) and goals against average (1.74 for Kopf, and 1.95 Smith).

“It’ll be the biggest game of the year, this Friday,” said Lambke. “They ended up going to the finals last year and the Don Johnson Cup, so they have a lot of experience and a lot of guys who want one more shot at the championship.

“We’re hoping to get a lot of people out to see some exciting hockey. We have the first place team for them to cheer for, and a lot of guys from the local area who played their midget and minor hockey here. We’re going to keep playing hard for them.”

Lambke was interviewed on Sunday at the exact time he and the Pirates were scheduled to play in Glace Bay. The game was postponed due to bad weather.