A mid-October weekend trip to the HRM resulted in one win and one loss for the Cape Breton West (CBW) Major Midget Islanders.
On Oct. 14 in Dartmouth, the Islanders were defeated, 3-1, by league-leading Steele Subaru.
Team and league points leader Stephen Fox pulled CBW even in the game, in the second period, but two Dartmouth goals in the third, including an empty-netter, gave Steele Subaru the ‘W’.
Fearghus MacDonald and Dell Welton earned assists on Fox’s tally.
Second-year netminder Ewan MacDonald made 27 saves in the loss.
The Islanders responded in a big way the following day by drubbing the Cole Harbour Wolfpack 6-1.
First-year defenseman Neil MacLean led the CBW attack with two goals and an assist.
Fox had three helpers in the game and the Islanders received one goal-one assist efforts from Calum MacPherson, Welton and Matthew Ellis. MacDonald had two assists while veteran defensemen Jack Morris and Sean Stewart contributed one goal and one assist, respectively.
Rookie Ryan Miller picked up the win in goal for CBW with a 26-save effort.
Islanders head coach Kyle MacDonald said he was “happy” with his team’s performance over the weekend.
“We were down three players Saturday night against Dartmouth and, even though we lost, I thought we had a good effort,” MacDonald said.
“With the exception of the first period, I thought the play was even, the game was back-and-forth. In the second, we even controlled the play but just came up a little short. Certainly though, it was a good effort.
“So after the loss Saturday night, we [coaches] expected to see a desperate hockey team on the ice Sunday, one that loss two games in a row, and they, certainly on Sunday, showed that they care,” he said of the bounce-back effort, while also alluding to a loss in Sydney, before the games in the HRM.
“They played an excellent game on Sunday and it was nice to see our team respond like that. I’m very proud of the group right now.”
The results have the Islanders sitting in third place in the league with an 8-3 record.
“I think what is most impressive about the start of our season is that, with each game, our group has been a little better, that’s really nice to see as a coach,” MacDonald said.
“Especially with a lot of new players, that’s very promising, to be better each time out; and 8-3 is a fairly impressive record too, we’re sitting well in the standings.”
The Islanders will be tested to finish the month with games versus Dartmouth (Oct. 21 and 22 in Port Hood, results unavailable at press time) and in Halifax, versus the McDonald’s, on the 28th.
“We’re not too concerned about who we have to beat or this and that, but we know October is a tough month for us,” MacDonald said. “We have to make sure, in practice, we’re preparing well for each weekend … the rest will take care of itself.”
MacDonald talked about starting to see the work ethic his team needs to play with and now it’s about combining it with smart decisions.
“We first talk about how we want to be a hard working team, one of the hardest working teams in the league, and I think we’re getting to that point, but we also have to start working smarter,” he said.
“Often, when you go up against a team like Dartmouth, where everything is so tight, it’s the small details. So we have to look after them, make sure we’re working smart. Having good sticks [an example] and, against Dartmouth, guys were dumping the puck but they were dumping the puck to the goaltender, so we weren’t able to get a fore-check going. Little details like that, our guys will have to be sharp on.”
The coach was asked about on-ice chemistry at this early stage of the season.
“It’s tough this time of year, we’ve tried some different stuff,” he said.
“This weekend was actually the first where I put Fox, [Fearghus] MacDonald and MacPherson back together; they played together in bantam and were a great line and again, last year, in midget. We felt that, being down a couple of players, we would need some offense from them. But our first-year players, especially when I go a little top-heavy with that line, and some returning guys on those other three lines, have done an excellent job of not getting scored against and contributing offensively, so we’re happy with that.”