Those were the words of Cape Breton West Islanders head coach Nick MacNeil following his team’s Aug. 31 preseason game in Port Hawkesbury, a 6-3 loss to the Pictou County Weeks Major Midgets.
The Islanders started slowly in the contest and were outshot by their nearest rivals to the west, 15-6.
The shots and chances slowly became more balanced as the game went along, and MacNeil was pleased with how his team improved during the afternoon contest.
“I thought we were pretty flat [today] to be honest,” MacNeil, now in his second season at the helm in Port Hood, said.
“We didn’t skate at all this week; we skated once Monday and last night. It’s tough when you don’t skate those couple of times [during the week] to get going right off the bat but, it’s just the way it was, we couldn’t get ice anywhere. But, again, I think we’re coming. We played a lot better in the second half of the game … and we’re certainly getting better as the week goes on.”
Looking ahead to his projected line-up, MacNeil said a strength could be in goal where Inverness’ Kenzie MacPhail, a Nova Scotia Major Midget Hockey (NSMMHL) League all-rookie team member, and Nova Scotia Canada Games player last winter, will be back.
“He’ll be lugging the mail, if you want to call it that,” MacNeil said of the 16-year-old who was drafted by the QMJHL’s Cape Breton Eagles in the sixth round of their draft last spring (102nd overall); and a short time later by the Miramichi Timberwolves of the Maritime Junior Hockey League, also in the sixth round, 63rd overall.
“We’ll be a hard-working team again, that is the big thing for us. We’ll bring an honest effort every night. I don’t know if we’ll be scoring a lot of goals this year, but we’ll certainly be in [have a chance to win] a lot of low scoring games, absolutely.”
Versus the Weeks, Lewis Taylor scored twice for CBW with Daniel LeBlanc also finding the back of the net.
Brant Timmons, Calvin Denny and Blake Hadley picked up assists in the game and the goaltending duties were shared by Adam Tkacz, who started, and Cole Goss.
The following day, the two goaltenders shared a shutout as the Islanders defeated the Sydney Mitsubishi Rush (formerly Cape Breton Tradesmen) 3-0. The preseason game was also played in Port Hawkesbury.
Taylor and Bryce Thompson each had a goal and assist for the Islanders while Jacob Cook scored the other CBW goal and Luke Gould, Ryan Digout and Daniel Gillis added assists.
The Islanders participated in the NSMMHL early bird tournament during the Sept. 6 to 8 weekend, which was held in Berwick.
They return to Berwick this weekend to start the 2019-20 campaign, with Saturday and Sunday games versus the Kohltech Valley Wildcats.
The Islanders knocked out the Wildcats in the first round of last year’s NSMMHL playoffs before falling to the Cole Harbour Wolfpack in round two.
The team’s first home games of the season take place the following weekend (Sept. 21 and 22) when they host the always tough Steele Subaru Major Midgets from Dartmouth. Game start times are the usual 6 p.m. on Saturday, and noon on Sunday.
Check out the Islanders website (islanders.goaline.ca) or Facebook page for the latest information on the team.