With solid defensive play accompanied by timely offense, the major bantam Novas earned four wins during the Chronicle Herald East Coast Ice Jam, played Jan. 10 to 14 in Bedford.
The victories advanced the local team to the tournament’s quarter-final round where they were defeated, 4-0, by eventual 2018 Ice Jam champs; the All Credit Auto Rangers from East Hants.
“It was good to see them perform so well,” Novas head coach Mike Stewart said of his team, which won all three of their round-robin games and the first playoff-round game, in overtime, before falling to the Rangers.
“Before, they would get into situations where they were down or the other team was becoming more physical with them and they’ve tended to, in the past, let those teams push them around a little bit. We would get on our heels and weren’t able to recover and push back, but they showed a lot more resolve and pushed back hard. They not only dealt with it, but initiating that same physicality, if not more.
“And finding ways to win,” Stewart added. “I think that was really good and I loved the balance in our attack; I thought we had everyone going and there wasn’t a whole lot of difference between the first and fourth line.”
The Novas won their playoff-round game over league rival, the Cole Harbour Pro Hockey Life Storm, 2-1, with captain Dylan Chisholm scoring in three-on-three OT. Luke Gould picked up an assist on the winner.
Chisholm also recorded an assist on Charles LeBlanc’s second period goal; as did Brody McLaren.
Brandon Connors earned the win in goal for the Novas.
The script was similar for the Novas’ final round-robin game where they defeated the Dieppe Flyers in OT, on a goal by Chisholm, 3-2.
Trey Sturge and Lowell MacDonald earned assists on the goal and Sturge also scored in the contest, while MacDonald also assisted LeBlanc’s second period marker.
Keir Jordan also picked up an assist in the game and Kenzie MacPhail, who was named top goaltender for the tournament, earned the win in goal for the Novas.
The Novas’ win over the Prince County Warriors, from P.E.I., was also by a 3-2 score with MacDonald scoring twice and adding an assist.
Landyn Pitts added a goal and an assist in the win while Sturge and Chisholm added one assist each.
Connors was in goal for the win.
The Novas began the tournament by shutting out another P.E.I. entry, the Eastern Express, 3-0.
Sturge scored twice with LeBlanc adding the other goal. Pitts had two assists in the game while MacDonald and Jacob Cook each added a helper.
Stewart was asked about Chisholm’s heroics over the weekend.
“Dylan has a lot of offensive upside and three-on-three really allows for that skill set to come through,” he said. “We’re always telling our ‘D’ to jump up and be a difference and he has shown that all year long but it really shows in three-on-three hockey.”
He also talked about MacPhail’s recognition noting the netminder has, recently, shown more consistency in his game.
“And I like how he dealt with adversity; if a bad goal was scored he buckled the chin strap and bounced back, showing a lot of maturity and poise, which I was really happy with,” Stewart said.
“And I loved how the team played in front of him; I thought that it was our best defensive hockey.
“A team like East Hants beat us 11-0 earlier in the year and we’ve closed that gap. We’re doing a better job playing in our zone and, really, better defense over the full rink. That’s a testament to the kids working hard and believing in what we’re trying to do as coaches.”