Antigonish Farmers’ Mutual Junior Bulldogs forward Taylor Leger (left) battles Regan McDonald of the Sackville Blazers’ opponent during Nova Scotia Junior Hockey League action earlier this season. Corey LeBlanc
The Antigonish Farmers’ Mutual Junior Bulldogs will drop the puck on their post-Christmas schedule Friday night.
The Black and Gold will host the Cumberland County Blues in Nova Scotia Junior Hockey League action at the Antigonish Arena.
Puck drop is 7:30 p.m.
“We have developed the way we thought we would,” first-year head coach David Synishin said, Dec. 20, during the league’s holiday break.
That development may not have occurred as “quickly” as they would have liked, but he noted the transition involved with a new coaching staff and personnel.
“Everyone is buying in,” Synishin said, adding the team has been “getting better as the year has gone on.”
“So, we are certainly happy with where we are, at this point,” he added.
The Bulldogs, who will return to regular season play after five consecutive victories, sit third in the Sid Rowe Division with an 11-11-0-2 mark for 24 points.
During that winning streak, they have surrendered only seven goals.
Since day one, Synishin noted, the Bulldogs have focussed on the “D-side” of the puck, with a concentration on playing in their own zone.
“That has been the main thing,” he said when asked of the keys to the Bulldogs’ success and development.
He noted the players have committed to defense – collectively and individually.
“We don’t consider ourselves an offensive team,” Synishin said.
Nevertheless, he noted, some top scorers from other teams in the league would be third or fourth on the Bulldogs’ roster.
On that side of the puck, Synishin agreed, “balance” has been of utmost importance.
Noting they have yet to ice a full line-up this season, he talked about the four-line depth the Bulldogs have exhibited.
“It is a key at this level – having fresh legs – and, I think, we have been able to wear teams down,” Synishin offered.
Like all teams, there have been some ups and downs.
“But, again, the guys deserve the credit – they have been great,” Synishin said.
No matter the score or situation, he added, the Bulldogs have – more and more – headed a consistent piece of advice offered by assistant coach John Van Kessel.
“Regardless of the score, we have to continue to play hard,” Synishin said, echoing that sentiment.
He added the players are “hungry to be successful,” with a great focus on team rather than individual accomplishments.
Synishin also talked about the ever-improving goaltending, which now boasts the tandem of Charles Jensen and Antigonish native Jared Green.
“It is going to be a key for us,” he said.
The former long-time head coach of the St. F.X. X-Women was asked about his first campaign behind the Bulldog bench.
“I love it,” Synishin said.
He praised his coaching staff – Van Kessel, who he described as a “huge addition” to the program, and Terry MacDonald, along with the support staff for their contributions.
“I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I look forward to going to the rink every day, which is a great indication of how much I am enjoying it,” Synishin said.