Pirates make their last stand

PORT HAWKESBURY: Despite battling back to tie the game twice in the second period, the Strait Pirates didn’t have enough in the tank to get a game six win last Monday. As a result, the Glace Bay Miners eliminated them from the Nova Scotia Junior Hockey League play-offs.

“It was a battle all year and the guys, I give them credit, they fought their hearts out in the playoffs,” said Pirate coach, Taylor Lambke. “We just didn’t get to the level we needed to win.

“[Glace Bay] have some elite players, and their best players are their best players every night. Those guys are superstars in this league, and they always find a way to get on the score sheet.”

Last Monday, Joshua MacMillan and Logan Gillis managed two second period goals for the Pirates, after a scoreless first frame. Both were on the power play and, both times, the goals lifted the Strait to a tie. MacMillan’s goal (from Branden Dauphinee and Olan Spears) was with 6:37 remaining, setting the game at 1-1. Gillis scored from Dauphinee and Josh Foster with 29 seconds left, tying the game at 2-2.

The third period saw three unanswered Miner goals, meaning a 5-2 final and the Pirates’ exit from play-offs. The Miners won the series 4-2.

It was an odd series, in a number of ways. The Miners scored a big 9-1 win in game one, but the Strait took a series lead after winning 3-2 and 6-1 in the second and third games. Game four was last Friday at the Civic Centre, and the final was 6-5 in the Miners’ favour. Game five in Glace Bay spelled a 3-1 win for the hosts.

Lambke said the turning point was in game four.

Despite the final being 6-5, the one-goal game was a blow to the Strait’s morale, as the Pirates led 5-1 in the second frame.

“If we were the group we were last year, there’d have been no chance of losing that game,” Lambke said. “The group we are this year, it was 50/50.”

Lambke said the entire season was mountains and valleys, as getting a full roster in place was problematic. Indeed, keeping everyone in place was also a challenge.

“Liam MacKinnon not playing was a big blow,” he said. “Brendan Lanning quit halfway through the year, and Austin Woodland quitting one game into the playoffs. It was one thing after another with this team.

“We got gut punched quite a few times with injuries or suspensions or guys just not being able to be at the rink. It was a really trying year for that.

“There were a lot of good points this season when we had our whole group together, but it was a challenge – getting them altogether. We had APs from the Major Midgets in play-offs and tried to piece together a backend.”

The Pirates might have lost in the first round of playoffs, but their regular season performance was comparable. At 19-9-2-2, the Pirates were in the hunt for top spot in the league’s Sid Rowe Division for most of the season, though they eventually settled for third.