Youth­ful CBW Is­landers more than hold­ing their own

The Casket - - Sports - RICHARD MACKEN­ZIE richard­mac@the­cas­ket.ca

The Cape Bre­ton West (CBW) Is­landers find them­selves sit­ting in third place as the cal­en­dar flips from Oc­to­ber to Novem­ber in the 2018-19 Nova Sco­tia Ma­jor Midget Hockey League sea­son.

A split of home-ice games ver­sus the Hal­i­fax Mcdon­alds over the Oct. 27 and 28 week­end left the Is­landers with 17 points af­ter 13 games; a to­tal ac­cu­mu­lated through an 8-4-1 (over­time loss) record.

The Cole Har­bour Pro

Hockey Life Wolf­pack lead the stand­ings with 20 points af­ter 13 games; fol­lowed by the Kohltech Val­ley Wild­cats’ 18 points in 14 games.

The Steele Subaru Ma­jor Mid­gets from Dart­mouth and the Mcdon­alds sit fourth and fifth in league stand­ings, but both teams have games in-hand on the top three hav­ing only played 10 and nine, re­spec­tively.

Is­landers first-year head coach Nick Macneil said he has been pleased with the team’s per­for­mance so far on the sea­son, es­pe­cially con­sid­er­ing their in­ex­pe­ri­ence.

“We have a young team this year, half the team is first year play­ers,” Macneil said.

“But things are go­ing good. We cer­tainly have a lot of grit on our team and a ‘don’t give up’ type of men­tal­ity. We had a tough game Satur­day (10-2 in favour of Hal­i­fax) where we played, by far, our worst game of the year. You can ex­pect that, some­times, from a young team. Noth­ing went our way that game, ev­ery­thing went in for them.

“But it was great to see the re­siliency of our team com­ing back the next day to beat a good Hal­i­fax team,” Macneil said, ref­er­enc­ing his team’s 5-4 over­time vic­tory on Sun­day.

Brant Tim­mons had a goal and an as­sist in the lop­sided loss with cap­tain Dar­ren Water­man scor­ing the other CBW goal.

Ja­son John­son, Low­ell Macdon­ald and af­fil­i­ate player James Beaton picked up sin­gle as­sists in the game while rookie goalies Bran­don Con­nors and Ken­zie Macphail split time in the CBW net, each sur­ren­der­ing five goals.

In the bounce-back win the fol­low­ing day, sec­ond-year for­ward Sam Grant was the over­time hero for the Is­landers with a power-player marker, as­sisted by Dell Wel­ton and Blake Hadley.

De­fence­man Neil Maclean led the CBW of­fence on the day with two goals and an as­sist while Grant added two as­sists to go along with his win­ning tally.

Lewis Tay­lor had a goal and an as­sist while Ben Maclel­lan recorded two as­sists in the win. Tim­mons scored the other CBW goal while Matthew El­lis and Dave Matthews added as­sists.

Macphail picked up the win in goal by mak­ing 31 saves.

It’s the abil­ity to shake off ad­ver­sity and con­tinue to play hard which Macneil sees as a strength of this year’s team.

“Our hard work and over­all men­tal­ity; we are al­ways bounc­ing back and just be­ing an hon­est, hard-work­ing team,”

Macneil, who was an as­sis­tant coach with the Is­landers last year, said. “It has been fun to watch.”

As far as an area to work on, Macneil talked about his team’s de­fen­sive zone cov­er­age.

“One thing we’re slowly get­ting bet­ter at is tak­ing care of our own end,” he said.

“There have been a few times where we have been run­ning around; maybe not be­ing in the right place at the right time, stuff like that. With a young team, you’re go­ing to have ups and downs with that part of your game, but we’re, slowly, get­ting bet­ter at it. We’ve been prac­tic­ing it a lot.”

Con­sis­tency is an­other area for im­prove­ment.

“It’s tough to be con­sis­tent ev­ery shift and kids are start­ing to re­al­ize, ev­ery shift you take is just as im­por­tant as the one you just had or the one com­ing up … we’re try­ing to preach that,” he said. “But, I’m very happy with the way the team is play­ing so far.”

Next up for the Is­landers is a game Nov. 7 in Mem­ber­tou ver­sus the Cape Bre­ton Trades­men, and they’re back on home­ice the fol­low­ing week­end (Nov. 10 and 11) when they host the Wild­cats. Puck-drops are sched­uled for the usual times at the Al Macin­nis Sports Cen­tre in Port Hood; 6 p.m. Satur­day evening and 12 noon on Sun­day.

Richard Macken­zie

Cape Bre­ton West (CBW) Is­landers goal­tender Ken­zie Macphail snags the puck out of the air while team­mates Dy­lan Chisholm (#27) and Ja­son John­son (#3) pro­vide de­fen­sive sup­port.

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