Play­off bat­tle be­gins Fri­day

Walsh, Ju­nior Min­ers ready to chal­lenge Pi­rates in open­ing round

Cape Breton Post - - SPORTS - BY T.J. COLELLO sports@cb­post.com On Twit­ter: @cb­post_s­ports

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.

T.J. COLELLO/CAPE BRE­TON POST

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.

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