High School hockey league enters Christmas Break

Brett MacNeil works hard for SAERC during a recent visit to the Civic Centre.

STRAIT AREA: The holidays are here, and players from throughout the Cape Breton West High School Hockey League will return to action early next year.

“We’re very happy with the way we started out the season,” said SAERC Saints coach Stan MacNeil.

MacNeil’s Saints are 7-1-1 and the number one team in the five-team league.

Just last Wednesday, December 18, the Saints dropped Eskasoni 5-1. Scoring for SAERC were Harrison MacFadyen, Ben Breen, Andre Gerroir, Brady White, and Braden Kelly. Scoring for Eskasoni was Kendrick Marshall.

“For us, the opportunity to play in some D1 tournaments really helped us improve. We still have things we need to work on, but our team works hard in practice and they’re starting to really execute some of the things we’ve been instituting in practice these last three years.

“It’s a combined success of everything – solid goaltending, solid defense, and good players up front. The kids are playing both ends of the ice the way we want to teach them.

“They’re a great group to be around. Success comes from a certain amount of bonding with your teammates.”

SAERC is hosting the regional championship, and MacNeil said the game plan is to peak at the right time.

While SAERC is leading the league, both the Dalbrae Dragons at 5-1-0-2 and the Richmond Hurricane at 3-2-2-1 have been competitive with the Saints for that number one spot.

Richmond coach Robert MacDonald said the 2019-20 season, at first, had rebuilding year written all over it, but the Hurricane are performing very well.

“We lost nine guys last year, and we were thinking this was going to be kind of a year to grow again, but the guys we picked up in tryouts filled in pretty nicely. We’re back and forth with SAERC at the top of the league.”

The Hurricane didn’t host its annual Rock Ya Like a Hurricane tournament this year, but Richmond did welcome the Cole Harbour Cavaliers of the Metro High School Hockey League down for a pair of games earlier this month.

“We made some really good connections with that team last year when they came down for our tournament, and the friendships stayed,” MacDonald said. “We got them down, played a couple of games together, and went to supper. It was a lot of fun.

“I want our players to get a taste of playing bigger schools and get a taste of what playing them might be like, if we make provincials.”

Both Eskasoni and Inverness/Baddeck are battling in the Cape Breton league as well, but both have struggled so far. At the time of this writing, both teams have played eight games and won only one.