Eska­soni plays Bull­dogs in first NSJHL reg­u­lar sea­son game

The Casket - - Sports - SAM MAC­DON­ALD sam­mac­don­ald@the­cas­ket.ca

It was an aus­pi­cious evening for the play­ers of the newly-as­sem­bled Eska­soni Ea­gles, Sept.

21. It marked the first reg­u­lar sea­son game the new­est team in the Nova Sco­tia Ju­nior Hockey League played, at the Antigo­nish Arena.

The oc­ca­sion was marked by a cer­e­mo­nial puck drop that was over­seen by the chiefs of two

First Na­tions, who are proud of the step for­ward a team for Eska­soni means for the com­mu­ni­ties that wish to par­tic­i­pate in the league.

“It’s amaz­ing to see Eska­soni writ­ten on their jer­seys,” Chief Leroy Denny of Eska­soni First Na­tion said. “It’s a lit­tle sur­real for me, and an amaz­ing feel­ing to know they are now of­fi­cially a team in the league.”

Denny em­pha­sized how sat­is­fy­ing it is, as chief, to see

Eska­soni fi­nally have a team in the league, not­ing it is a good sign for Indige­nous com­mu­ni­ties around Nova Sco­tia, to see such a mile­stone come to fruition.

“I think it’s a sign of rec­on­cil­i­a­tion,” Denny said.

“It breaks bar­ri­ers. It’s a proud mo­ment, and it be­longs to the com­mu­nity. There were a lot of fundrais­ers, and there are many com­mu­nity spon­sors who made this pos­si­ble.”

Denny said he hopes to take the sea­son “one game at a time,” and is grate­ful, re­gard­less of how the Ea­gles fare this sea­son, to see a lo­cal team rep­re­sent­ing the com­mu­nity.

Chief Paul (PJ) Pros­per of Paqtnkek Mi’kmaw Na­tion also made the trip to Antigo­nish on Fri­day evening, to be part of the mo­men­tous oc­ca­sion, say­ing, “It’s his­toric for the Eska­soni

Mi’kmaw com­mu­nity, and we wanted to show our sup­port for such a huge ac­com­plish­ment.”

Pros­per noted he was hon­oured to be in­vited to wit­ness the Ea­gles’ first game, em­pha­siz­ing that “it’s im­por­tant that Eska­soni took that first step, in cre­at­ing that in­road to the league, set­ting an ex­am­ple for other com­mu­ni­ties and Mi’kmaw youth to think about.”

In their his­toric in­au­gu­ral reg­u­lar sea­son game, the Ea­gles dropped a 6-3 de­ci­sion to the Antigo­nish Farm­ers’ Mu­tual Ju­nior Bull­dogs, but Bull­dog head coach David Synishin noted the new team proved to be a for­mi­da­ble chal­lenge early in the game for the Bull­dogs.

“I think early on, de­fen­sively, we weren’t look­ing af­ter the puck, and they took ad­van­tage of that. They have a num­ber of play­ers up­front who are skilled, so it was very close early on,” Synishin said. “We got out legs later, and started play­ing bet­ter ‘D,’ and got the puck in the net.”

The Bull­dogs started pick­ing up mo­men­tum to­ward the end of the sec­ond pe­riod, tak­ing ad­van­tage of re­bounds, and play­ing a more solid de­fence.

“We didn’t want to get into a slowdown with th­ese guys, as far as of­fence goes," he said.

An­other way Antigo­nish bore down as the game went on was by fo­cus­ing on bet­ter puck man­age­ment, Synishin said.

“I think we con­trolled the puck bet­ter, and moved it well. That’s go­ing to be key this year — not hold­ing on to it too long,” Synishin said.

“In this league, you can see guys make too many plays and hold on to the puck too long. We’re fairly deep up front, and the more we can move the puck and dis­trib­ute it, the bet­ter we’re go­ing to be.”

Synishin said Ja­cob Nobbe helped se­cure a lead for Antigo­nish, with a cou­ple of goals, an ex­ten­sion of what has been a record of solid play in the pre­sea­son.

Synishin said he be­lieves the Ea­gles will be a force to reck­oned with in the league, in the com­ing months, with play­ers like Levi Denny, who per­formed ex­cep­tion­ally last spring in the Don John­son Memo­rial Cup, with the Kameron Ju­nior Min­ers, on their ros­ter.

Sam Mac­don­ald

The Eska­soni Ea­gles line up on the blue-line just be­fore their in­au­gu­ral game in the Nova Sco­tia Ju­nior Hockey League at the Antigo­nish Arena.

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