PORT HAWKESBURY: The Strait Pirates had a big weekend as they scared up not only four points but also skated past the Antigonish Bulldogs to claim second place in the Nova Scotia Junior Hockey League’s Sid Rowe Division.
The pair of wins lifts the Pirates to 12-5-1-2, good for 27 points – two points more than the Bulldogs and just one shy of the divisional leader, the Glace Bay Junior Miners.
The maroon and white don’t have it made in the shade yet, as both the Miners and Bulldogs have games-in-hand on the Pirates (three for Glace Bay and four for Antigonish) but Pirate coach Taylor Lambke is happy with his squad’s results and effort.
“We wanted to get four points this weekend to get back into the race for the division,” he said. “We had a solid game Friday night, and on Sunday we carried that into Eskasoni and played another solid game again.
“It was nice to have Josh MacMillan back in the line-up. He was out for a couple of weeks with an injury, and Avery Warner was back – we kind of had our whole team Friday night and played a real solid game.
“The last few weeks, we’ve been talking about tightening up defensively and making sure we’re on the right side of the puck, defending first, and everyone seems to be buying into that,” he said.
Last Saturday night, the Pirates overcame a 1-0 lead in the first frame of their home ice game against the East Hants Penguins to manage a four-goal second and a four-goal third. The final was 8-2 for the maroon and white.
A big part of the Pirates’ success was captain Jacob Keagan, who connected for the first three Pirate goals (all on the power play), as well as one additional goal in the third. Also recording a big game were Jason Johnson, two goals; Matthew Raike, two assists; and Gregor Yoell, a goal. Managing helpers were Bryce Reynolds, Austin Woodland, Joshua MacMillan, and Branden Dauphinee.
Pirate Avery Warner and Penguin Parker Boland scrapped with 2:25 remaining in the game, and goalie Cody Smith stopped 37 of 39 shots. The Pirates were slightly edged in shots, 39-35.
Making Smith’s performance all-the-more impressive is the Penguins’ knack for scoring. In 20 games this season, East Hants managed a league-leading 109 goals. The only other team to break the 100-goal mark is the Pirates, with 102 markers.
On Sunday, backstopped by Cape Breton West High School Hockey League alumnus Hunter Forance, the Pirates dropped the Eskasoni Junior Eagles 7-2.
Leading the Pirate charge were Dauphinee and MacMillan, a goal and two assists each; Yoell, two goals; Keagan, a goal and an assist; Johnson and Cruz Pazos, two assists each; Josh Foster and Owen Higgins, a goal each; and Raike, an assist.
Pirate Forance faced 37 shots, and Eagle Alexander Denny faced 39.
The Pirates are off to Cole Harbour this Friday night, but the squad returns home on December 13 when hosting the Antigonish Bulldogs.
“We want to get wins in both of those games before the break and, if we can do that, we’ll be looking at a really successful first half and something to be excited about going into the second half,” Lambke said.
The coach added he and the guys were excited to see so many hockey fans at the Civic Centre last Friday, given the gloomy forecast. He said he and the team are very excited to play for their fans every chance they get.