PORT HAWKESBURY: Their first season in the Nova Scotia Minor AAA Midget Hockey League (NSMAAAMHL) was a tough one, but 2018-19 saw the Cabot Highlanders manage a big win by expanding the framework for developmental hockey in the local area.

Myles Farnworth was the most improved player for the newly minted Highlanders. He’s seen here with his coaches from the season (from left) Marc Larade, Donnie Grant, and David Cusack.

“The Strait Pirates, the Antigonish Bulldogs, the Cape Breton West Major Midget Islanders all see the value in this level of hockey not only for their own organizations but also for the community at large, the opportunity it brings to young players looking to play at a provincial standard,” said master of ceremonies Bob MacEachern, offering remarks at the Highlanders’ yearend banquet. The event took place last Friday at the Port Hawkesbury Civic Centre.

The three teams MacEachern mentioned were very supportive of the Highlanders entering the NSMAAAMHL. Cabot started its inaugural season last September.

As is often the case with a rookie club, the Highlanders took some time finding their sealegs. At the end of the season, Cabot finished in last place with four wins in 35 games.

Named top blueliner for the Highlanders was Keir Jordan. Pictured here are (from left) assistant coach Marc Larade, Jordan, assistant coach David Cusack, and head coach Donnie Grant.

Dealing with loss is a tough thing for any team, said head coach Donnie Grant, but it wouldn’t be fair to say a losing record is representative of the improvements made over the season. Indeed, by the end of the year, the Highlanders were able to put a scare into any team in the league, the coach said.

“It was an up and down year, but adversity and struggle makes you a better person,” Grant said. “We had a fun and successful year, and those last few games were a helluva lot of fun to be part of.”

James Beaton was named top forward for the Cabot Highlanders. He’s seen here with (from left) assistant coach Marc Larade, head coach Donnie Grant, and assistant coach David Cusack.

MacEachern added the players deserve a great deal of credit for pressing on during a tough season. He added there were several people behind the scenes also hard at work.

“I thank you all for stepping up, and it wouldn’t happen without the dedication of a number of people including president Danny Demone; general manager Brian Tracey; Denise Sampson, who looks after the finance and the media; and the team behind the bench, head coach Donnie Grant, and assistant coaches Marc Larade and David Cusack.

“There’s also a great deal of parent support. Taking on this challenge requires more than loving the game of hockey.”

Coach Grant also mentioned the behind-the-scenes work.

“Danny and Brian really deserve thanks,” he said. “Their passion is what led us here today, and the work Denise did behind the scenes, good Lord, she’s not an unsung hero because everyone knows what she’s done for the organization.”

Demone also tipped his hat to the other executive members, bench staff, players and parents.

Taking MVP honours for the Cabot Highlanders was Adam Tkacz. He’s pictured here with coaches (from left) Marc Larade, Donnie Grant, and David Cusack.

“It’s been quite a journey, and I can assure you we’ll be tracking all the kids next year to see where they’re playing. The executive will never forget the players who played this year,” he said.

“You could see a big difference in the way you were playing in your last game.”

Winning special awards for their play were Adam Tkacz, MVP; Myles Farnworth, Most Improved Player Award; James Beaton, Top Forward Award; and Keir Jordan, Top Defense Award.