Playoff battle begins Friday
Walsh, Junior Miners ready to challenge Pirates in opening round
Nick Walsh enters the Nova Scotia Junior Hockey League playoffs looking to make the most of his last shot at a championship.
In his fourth and final season between the pipes with the Kameron Junior Miners, Walsh already has a league title to his credit from the 2014-15 campaign. He’ll look to add another to his résumé when the Junior Miners begin their title quest against the Strait Pirates on Friday.
“It feels like a blink of the eye,” the 21-year-old from Westmount said about his time in the league. “(Assistant coach) Sean Ferguson is back on the bench and he was there when I started out. Guys that I played with are coaching and now I’m all finished up. You’re on the bus talking about stories when they played because guys are asking what they were like. “It’s all on the line now.” Walsh, a perennial all-star, was named top goaltender in the league the past two seasons. He could make it three in a row, after leading the league with a 2.55 goals-against average. He also finished tied for first with two shutouts, second in save percentage (.920), and fifth in wins (12).
Walsh has been part of a onetwo punch for the Junior Miners the past two seasons with Logan Cooke. Cooke finished second behind Walsh in goalsagainst average (2.90) while winning 11 games.
“It’s always friendly competition and we push each other to go forward,” said Walsh.
The goalie tandem has been a big reason why the Junior Miners sported the best record in the league at 21-7-1-0. The team has excelled despite graduating four of its six defenceman from last year.
Kameron’s 70 points is 34 better than the Strait Pirates (7-19-2-5) in the Sid Rowe Division standings, but the Pirates are the only team in the division to win two games against the Junior Miners.
“I’m glad we have them in the first round. It’s a good test,” said Junior Miners head coach Ryan MacDougall. “I know they’re going to come out and play us really hard. We have a young team with a lot of guys who haven’t seen any playoff experience, so it’s a good way to get their feet wet.”
Pirates head coach Dave Marston said his club has battled injury problems all season, but they’re excited to take on the role of underdog.
He said his crew will need a complete effort against their cross-island rivals.
“Our issue throughout the year is we play consistently for 52 or 53 minutes of a game, and (the Junior Miners) have enough skilled guys on the team that in those seven or eight minutes you take off, three or four goals can get in the back of the net real quick,” he said. “The trick is not to have those lapses.”
Game 1 is Friday at the Port Hawkesbury Civic Centre. Game 2 is Saturday at the Membertou Sport and Wellness Centre. Both games begin at 7:30 p.m.
Veteran goaltender Nick Walsh of the Kameron Junior Miners will have his last crack at a Nova Scotia Junior Hockey League title. His team opens the playoffs on Friday against the Strait Pirates.