‘We’re in a tough spot’
Valley Wildcats split weekend, trying to make it back into playoff contention
It was a good weekend for the Valley junior A Wildcats, but they were hoping for better than simply good.
The club split a pair of weekend home games at the Kings Mutual Century Centre in Berwick, defeating the South Shore Lumberjacks 5–1 Dec. 10, then dropping a close 4–3 decision to the Yarmouth Mariners the next afternoon.
Goaltender Justin Ritcey stopped 87 shots over the weekend, including 44 of 45 shots in the Dec. 10 victory, and was named the game’s first star. The Lumberjacks threw a flurry of quality chances at the Wildcat goal, but Ritcey made several highlight-reel saves to keep his team in front. His shut out bid was broken on a five-on-three power play goal with only two minutes remaining.
Head coach Nick Greenough says Ritcey has been a very consistent since being acquired by the Wildcats early in the season.
“He’s played great for us, and given us an opportunity to win each night.”
Donoval Rehill, Evan Scott, Grant Janes, Adam Nolan and Ilya Putintsev all scored for Valley in the win over South Shore, while Jean-Marc Evans-Renaud added two assists.
Dropped Sunday game
On Dec. 11, the Wildcats had a 1–0 lead over Yarmouth halfway through the game on a first period goal from Rehill.
Yarmouth seized control with four goals in four minutes during the second period. Nic Blanchard scored with less than a second remaining in the second period and added another goal in the third, but it was as close as the Wildcats would come.
After the game, Greenough was lamenting the opportunity that got away.
“I thought today the guys played well, but it’s the same thing all year,” he said. “Five minutes of hockey and we lose the game in that small bit of time. We can’t have guys stop playing for five minutes, this league is too good.”
Forward Jonathan Larter was pleased to get two points to climb within a game of South Shore for fifth in the division, but knew the team let the Dec. 11 match slip through their fingers.
“We took five minutes off tonight and it really cost us,” he said.
Already into the second half of their schedule and 12 points out of a playoff spot, Greenough says some tough decisions are coming over the next month.
“We’re in a tough spot right now trying to climb back into the playoff race. You never want to be a seller, you always want to be a buyer, but we’re going to have to look and see where we are as a club, and what’s best moving forward.”