South Shore Breaker

Mustangs turn corner at opportune time

Productive stretch enables South Shore to make gains in U18 major standings

- JOHN MACNEIL SOUTH SHORE BREAKER john.macneil @Johnnymach­ockey

The South Shore Mustangs have begun to steer their ship in the right direction.

After losing four times in a five-game stretch, the Mustangs went on to win four of their next five games and improve their won-lost record to 8-7 in the Nova Scotia Under-18 Major Hockey League.

South Shore was scheduled to play another league game — Nov. 11 at home to the Sydney Rush — before heading to New Brunswick for the annual Monctonian tournament from Nov. 16 to 19.

Before their Remembranc­e Day game, the Mustangs split a two-game series with the Cape Breton West Islanders the previous weekend in Port Hood. In the second game, South Shore opened a 5-2 lead and hung on to win 5-4, just one day after giving up a 1-0 lead in the third period to lose 2-1.

“We’ve just got to learn how to put teams away,” said Mustangs assistant captain Cameron Barnes, a 17-yearold forward. “We just couldn’t finish in Saturday’s loss. We were good up until five minutes into the third (period) and we started taking penalties and everything kind of went downhill from there.”

The Mustangs regrouped the next day and pulled out a victory, thanks in large part to Barnes’ first hat trick in the provincial U18 major league.

South Shore and Cape Breton West were part of a crowded group in the middle of the standings, so their head-to-head matchups essentiall­y amounted to four-point games early in the season.

“That’s how everyone kind of looked at it going into the weekend,” agreed Barnes, a Yarmouth native who attends high school and billets in Bridgewate­r during thehockey season. “We’re going to be battling with them all year, so these are like crucial games that we have to win.”

After their Port Hood trip, the Mustangs were tied with the Valley Wildcats for third place in the eight-team league. Cape Breton West and the Cole Harbour Wolfpack each were four points behind Valley and South Shore in the thick of the pack.

Although their November was shaping up to be more productive than October, the Mustangs were still trying to find their way.

“It’s still a work in progress,” said Barnes, whose six points in a five-game span gave him seven goals and nine points after 15 games. “We’re kind of just off and on, I feel like. We’ve got to keep it on at all times. Everyone knows that we aren’t consistent. I just think it’s on us to figure it out.”

Barnes did his part in a big way with his three-goal game at the Al Macinnis Sports Centre, no less. His first and third goals came on breakaways.

“Oh yeah, that was exciting,” said Barnes, who credited rookie linemate Dawson Peverelle for “a nice pass” to set up his second goal.

Although he’s not necessaril­y superstiti­ous, Barnes had a unique suggestion for his teammates on how to approach games.

“A lot of what I've been telling the boys is to watch NHL'S Best Goals before you go play,” he said. “That'll get you dialed in.

“On the bus before these two games (against the Islanders), I was watching NHL'S Best Goals. I've had a little more confidence these past two weeks. I just go into the game and I tell myself, ‘I'm going to go score this game. I'm going to go score twice this game. I've got one in me this shift.' I'm a lot more confident in my ability right now.”

Barnes tallied four times in the two games at Port Hood. The previous weekend at the Lunenburg County Lifestyle Centre, he scored a goal in each game as South Shore swept a two-game series with Sydney.

He and Mustangs scoring leader Angus Arnold each had a team-leading seven goals after 15 games. Arnold, an assistant captain from Halifax, had 16 points overall.

Barnes, who attended the junior A Campbellto­n Tigers' training camp this year, was looking forward to a return to New Brunswick this week for the Monctonian, a scouting showcase tournament. This marks his fifth Monctonian, spanning two in U15 major, one in U16 AAA and now two in U18 major.

“It's a fun time, for sure,” he said. “But our goal is to win. If we don't make the crossovers, we'll be really disappoint­ed. That's been our goal since the start of the year. We want to move on.”

The Mustangs' first trip to Cape Breton this season gave them an opportunit­y to practise team-bonding, Barnes reported.

“Just being on the bus, everyone was in close quarters, so we all pretty much were just talking the whole time, goofing off. We had supper on the first night, and then we had breakfast on the second day, so it was good just to spend time with each other.”

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