It has been smooth sailing for the Strait Pirates in the first half of the Nova Scotia Junior Hockey League (NSJHL) season.
The Sid Rowe Division and league-leading club has posted a 17-2-1 record in pre-Christmas regular season action.
“We are playing some really good hockey – a complete two-way game,” second-year head coach Taylor Lambke said.
“It has been a total group effort.”
He added the Pirates have been strong in all three phases; goaltending, defense and scoring.
The Strait has scored 112 goals – second to the East Hants Penguins – while their 41 markers allowed tops the circuit.
“We have gotten contributions throughout the line-up; different players have stepped up in each game,” Lambke said.
He added the team has committed to the system installed by the coaches.
Branden Dauphinee, with seven goals and 23 assists, leads the Pirate attack, with 30 points, while Taylor Pierce, with a team-high 16 goals, has collected 29 points.
Between the pipes, the tandem of newcomer Cody Smith and returnee Peter Kopf has been rock solid.
Smith, the former Kameron Junior Miner product, has fashioned a 13-2 mark, with a 2.08 goal-against-average and .931 save percentage.
Kopf, an Antigonish native, has chipped in a 4-1 record, including a shutout, along with a 1.74 goal-against-average and .931 save percentage.
“They have been great,” Lambke said of the duo.
Reiterating it has been a team effort, he touched on the contributions of some key players, including Matt Morgan, who has performed at “an elite level.”
“He has been lights-out for us,” Lambke said.
There has been the influence of newcomers, such as the aforementioned and “seasoned” Dauphinee, who came from the Junior ‘A’ level, and Jacob Keegan.
“He is so upbeat and he plays with tonnes of energy,” Lambke noted of the latter skater.
And, not to mention the performance of Pierce, who garnered league player-of-the-month honours for November, in the first 20 games of the season.
“We are excited – we have a special group of guys,” Lambke said.
He noted a strong fore-check has been crucial for the Pirates.
Despite the fast start, Lambke agreed, there is always room for improvement.
“We have to get our power play dialed in. We haven’t been able to find the right combinations with our units,” he said, noting the importance of that aspect of the game “heading down the stretch and into the playoffs.”
As for roster changes, Lambke said, “We always keep our ears open.”
“I really like our group and we have great chemistry. I am pretty comfortable with our team,” he added.
The Pirates return to action Friday, Jan. 11, when they host the defending league champion Miners.
Puck drop is set for 7:30 p.m. at the Port Hawkesbury Civic Centre.