PORT HAWKESBURY: Although they played the equivalent of two games Saturday night, the Cape Breton West U18 Islanders had to go into double overtime again the next afternoon to end their playoff series.
Leading their best-of-three Nova Scotia U18 Hockey League playoff series over the Kohltech Valley Wildcats 2-0, the Islanders found themselves in a dog fight on April 17 as they played 112 minutes, including four overtime periods, with the visitors eventually winning 2-1.
Later the next afternoon, Jacob Cook scored on a power play in the second overtime period to lift the Islanders to a 3-2 win and a 3-1 series victory.
“It’s been a crazy 24 hours,” Islanders head coach MacNeil said on Monday. “It was four games, pretty much, pretty close to it. Wow, it’s something I won’t forget for a long time. It was just kind of crazy, but you know what, you have to give a lot of credit to the team. They were ready; they were prepared mentally and physically for whatever came at them all weekend. It was great to get the win on Sunday after coming off such an emotional loss on Saturday night.”
On Saturday night, Bryce Thomson scored the tying goal about halfway through the third period. Then after a 10-minute period, a 20-minute period, then another 20-frame, the Wildcats scored late in the fourth overtime period to force Game 4 the next afternoon.
Adam Tkacz made 60 saves for Cape Breton West.
MacNeil said it was tough loss since the winning goal ricocheted off a Cape Breton West defender right to the eventual goal scorer.
“I thought we played really well,” Islanders head coach Nick MacNeil said. “It just wasn’t our game to win by the end of it. They got the bounce.”
In the next overtime game on April 18, Jack MacDonald and Kevin Walker also scored for Cape Breton West, while Tkacz picked up another win with 36 saves.
“Kevin Walker scored a beautiful goal, top corner,” the head coach noted. “We got the vibe, got the mojo back, tied it up. In the first overtime, we had a breakaway and didn’t score. It was crazy but we just kept positive with them and stayed upbeat.”
MacNeil recalled that the series-clinching goal went off the inside of the post, then off the Wildcat goalie.
“(Sunday) the Valley hit a couple of posts,” MacNeil said. “They got the bounce Saturday night and we got the bounce yesterday.”
To help Cape Breton West players stay energized, MacNeil said they made sure players ate and hydrated properly.
“It’s all about a mentality, having a good mentality going into the next day after coming off such an emotional high, it’s very important,” he stated.
As a result of their win, the Islanders will now face the league leading Halifax McDonald’s on April 24 and 25 at the Halifax Forum, then they will be back at the Port Hawkesbury Civic Centre the following week.
The head coach added that their emphasis will be on defense heading into the semi-finals.
“We’ve played a lot of great hockey for the last month or so,” MacNeil added. “Preparing for this, the team’s ready, we’re more than ready. We know what Halifax is going to bring, but we’re a good group, we’re a confident group that believes in one another.”