It’s sometimes said; the junior Bulldogs are like a family. In some cases, that’s truer than others.
A couple of Antigonish-area brother acts are making a big impact on the Farmers’ Mutual Junior Bulldogs this season, as the team headed into their Christmas break on a five-game winning streak.
Twenty-year-old team leading-scorer Devin MacLaughlin, is joined by younger brother Kurt, as forwards on the Bulldogs this season, while last year’s team rookie of the year, and second-team division all-star, Connor Fraser, has been joined by his younger brother Blair.
Like the MacLaughlins, the older Fraser is 20 while the younger is 17. The one difference, Blair is a defenseman.
“This is the first chance we’ve had [to play together],” Devin said of the unique opportunity to play high-level hockey with his brother. He has recorded 16 goals and 19 assists in 24 games this season, which puts him tied for fifth in league scoring.
“Great chemistry with [Giordano] Saputo,” Devin said, spreading around the credit for his scoring success by noting the strong-play of the veteran Bulldogs’ winger.
“And Ryan Kennedy and Connor during the first part of the year … the puck is just going in the net, I guess,” he said, modestly.
A rugged, hard-working style has made Kurt, who spent last year with the Dr. J.H. Gillis Regional Royals, a nice addition to the Bulldogs this season.
“It’s going good … I’m having a lot of fun,” Kurt said, noting the chemistry he has developed with fellow rookie Josh Avery, a consistent line-mate so far on the season.
“I played with him two years ago with the Royals and we’re good buddies,” Kurt said. “It’s great to back with someone I’m used to playing with.”
He added he is feeling more comfortable with each game.
“At the start of the year I was a little timid, with the bigger guys and big age difference, but now I’m feeling more calm out there and like I found my place.”
Devin was asked if Kurt gets any special treatment apart from other rookies on the team.
“He gets it worse,” he said, as they both laughed.
Back on a serious note, the slick centre talked about his team’s chances going forward.
“I see us with a chance to go far, especially with the way we’ve turned it around in the last four or five games,” he said. “We’re going to go for a little run I think.”
Unlike Devin and Kurt, Connor and Blair did have the opportunity to play on the same team in the past; the 2015-16 Royals.
“When I was in my Grade 12 year, I was just done midget, and Blair was in Grade 10, just out of bantam,” Connor said.
He talked about his own game, so far, on the season.
“Personally, I haven’t been scoring as much, which is a little bit of a let-down,” he said, prior to recording three points in a big win versus the Strait Pirates, Dec. 15.
“But I’ve been playing with some good line-mates, so I’ve had the opportunities to produce goals. Still, I’m focused on helping my teammates and just being a force in the corners, around the net, areas like that.”
In talking about his season, Blair began with a team perspective.
“Good, so far,” he said “We had a small break around the start of the season, where we had a few losses but Dave [Synishin], our coach, just kept us in the mindset that it was going to come and we’ll be the team we’re supposed to be. We’re on a winning streak now; it starts with the coaching staff, our coaches are good.”
Like Kurt, he played last season with the Royals and noted “size and strength” of his opponents as a major adjustment to junior ‘B’ hockey.
“There are a lot of bigger guys out there compared to high school, you have to really adjust to that,” he said.
Connor fielded the same question Devin did about having his brother as a ‘rook’ on the team.
“I find we’re a little bit lighter on the rookies this year,” he said, perhaps with a little bit of envy.
“And he’s my brother, so I kind of give him some slack. At the same time, I can be hardest on him because I know what he is capable of and I just want to see the best out of him.”
He joined Devin in an optimistic outlook for the rest of the season.
“Nowhere but up,” he said. “Keep contending with the top teams in the league and just keep proving we’re not a team that will take a night off or shortcuts.
“From here, get in a good spot for the playoffs, lock down our systems and be ready to go.”
The MacLaughlins, parents Lisa MacDonald and Craig MacLaughlin, live on Garvie Road, off Hwy. 7, while the Frasers, parents Jason and Bonnie Jean Fraser, are from Brierley Brook.
Also with a family connection on the Bulldogs is third-year forward Patrik MacIssac and first-year defenseman Declan Murphy, who are first-cousins. Patrik’s dad Blair and Declan’s mom Lynn are siblings, from Antigonish.