‘Be­ing an un­der­dog isn’t the worst case’

Val­ley Wild­cats dom­i­nate home opener, shut out on the road

Annapolis Valley Register - - SPORTS - By Matt Lit­tle Kingscountynews.ca BER­WICK

The Val­ley ju­nior A Wild­cats opened the Mar­itime Hockey League sea­son with a home-ice win.

Val­ley took an early lead, and kept their cool when things got close, be­fore rolling to a 6–2 vic­tory over St. Stephen, New Brunswick’s County Aces Sept. 15 in Ber­wick.

Matt Warner led the at­tack with two goals, in­clud­ing a penalty shot. Ri­ley Macin­nis and Tarek Paran­ica each added a goal and an as­sist. Nick Cullen and Makail Parker also scored for Val­ley in the vic­tory, while An­napo­lis Royal’s Cole Mclaren made 41 saves in net.

“There was a lot of en­ergy in the build­ing, and we got off to a good start which helped a lot,” says new Wild­cats head coach Travis Young.

Val­ley went up 3–0, but the Aces closed the gap to 3–2 early in the third pe­riod. Young praised the com­po­sure of his young squad to turn the game back in their favour.

“I thought our guys re­ally stuck with it. There was no panic on the bench. Luck­ily, we were re­warded for it later on in the pe­riod.”

Loss on the road

The next night in Yar­mouth, the Wild­cats were shut down, fall­ing 3–0 against the Mariners. Leif Hertz stopped all 33 Wild­cat shots.

Val­ley had nine power plays in the game, in­clud­ing four straight to start the con­test, but couldn’t cap­i­tal­ize. Yar­mouth’s spe­cial teams unit stepped up, scor­ing two short-handed goals 44 sec­onds apart, and Val­ley was un­able to come back.

“Power play was prob­a­bly the dif­fer­ence in the game …,” said Young. “You don’t cap­i­tal­ize there and on top of it you give them two; that’s a tough thing to do against a team like that.”

De­spite the power-play trou­bles, Young says there are lots of pos­i­tives to build on go­ing for­ward.

“I liked a lot of things about our game. I though we worked hard, and com­peted well. We haven’t had this group to­gether for very long,” he said. “(The power play) wasn’t very good, but we’ll spend some time on it and re-group for next week­end.”

De­fence­man Drew Pack­man, who was ac­quired from the Pic­tou County Weeks Crush­ers dur­ing the summer, also likes what he sees out of his team­mates af­ter the open­ing week­end.

“We have a lot of good young guys, and they’re only get­ting bet­ter. With the year the Wild­cats had last year, peo­ple prob­a­bly don’t ex­pect us to do very well, but the boys in the room all be­lieve, the coaches are good, and we’re all ex­cited for this year,” Pack­man said.

“Be­ing an un­der­dog isn’t the worst case,” he added with a smirk.

The ju­nior A Wild­cats have a tough test ahead this week­end, play­ing three games in three nights. On Sept. 21, they visit the Pic­tou County Weeks Crush­ers in New Glas­gow, then re­turn home the next night to host the Amherst Ram­blers at the Kings Mu­tual Cen­tury Cen­tre in Ber­wick, be­fore hit­ting the road again Sept. 23 to play the de­fend­ing MHL cham­pion Truro Bearcats.

“It’ll be a good mea­sur­ing stick to see where we’re at. Go­ing into Pic­tou on Thurs­day, we need to get a good start, and set the tone. We’re look­ing for­ward to it,” Young said.

Jen­nifer VARDY Lit­tle

Val­ley de­fence­man Ben Varga goes af­ter the puck.

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