Will over skill: Islanders split with Wolfpack

Daniel LeBlanc and the Islanders went 1-1 last weekend in their first round series against Cole Harbour.

PORT HOOD: On paper, it might have looked like the Cole Harbour Wolfpack (22-9-3-1) were favourites when hosting the Cape Breton West Islanders (13-21-0-1) in the first two games of their first round play-off series last weekend. That wasn’t the case.

“We flicked the switch from regular season to play-offs,” said Islander coach Nick MacNeil. “We know the way we’ve been playing, and we know the team we have. Our game plan is to be tough, physical, and do the job.

“Our play-off motto is will over skill.”

The series is now tied 1-1, after a very competitive Islander loss on Saturday and a grind-to-win Islander effort on Sunday. The series picks up this weekend at the Al MacInnis Sports Centre for games three and four.

“We played two great games,” said coach Nick MacNeil. “I’m very impressed with the guys; they’re playing extremely hard. On Saturday, we outshot Cole Harbour and gave them a rude awakening. I don’t think they realized the team we had, and I’m very impressed with the effort.

“Yesterday, [Sunday] we kind of grinded it out. Kenzie MacPhail played extremely well. Getting a split was our goal going up.”

On Saturday, game one saw Cole Harbour win 5-4.

The game was stalemated 2-2 at the end of 20 minutes, 3-3 at the end of 40 minutes, and the Islanders led by an early third period goal until the Wolfpack popped two late ones for the win. The Islanders outshot the Wolfpack 33-29.

The first period saw Lewis Taylor (from James Beaton) give the Islanders a one-goal lead with 1:51 played. Cole Harbour came back with two goals, but Beaton (from Jacob Cook) tied things up before intermission.

The second period saw Cole Harbour score on a power play mid-frame, with Beaton (from Dylan Chisholm) popping another goal with 1:43 left in the period.

At 2:20 of the third, Beaton (from Cadyn Power and Taylor) gave his crew a 4-3 lead. That was followed by Cole Harbour’s scoring late period.

All told, MacPhail faced 29 shots and Cole Harbour goalie Giovacchino Dimattia dealt with 33 shots.

On Sunday, Daniel Gillis (from Taylor and Chisholm) popped a power play goal with 1:07 left in the second to lift the Islanders to a 1-0 win.

Despite pulling the win, the Islanders were outshot 37-14. MacPhail was in net for the Islanders.

The West had some bad luck in the early part of the game, as forward Lowell MacDonald was injured and had to leave the ice. The coach said it’s possible MacDonald will be back for Saturday’s outing.

“We were down to nine forwards,” MacNeil said. “We had a winger play centre for the first time all year, and the boys believed. That’s the way it’s been all year. I’m excited for Port Hood this weekend.”

This Saturday (February 15) game three takes place at 6 p.m.. On Sunday, game four starts at noon. Both outings are at the Al MacInnis Sports Centre.