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Strait Pirates focused on taking next step

Avery Warner (with puck) of the Strait Pirates challenges Antigonish Bulldogs’ defenseman Kieran Devine in the 2019 Nova Scotia Junior Hockey League playoffs. Warner will be one of the returning forwards this season on a roster that will vie for a league crown. Corey LeBlanc
Avery Warner (with puck) of the Strait Pirates challenges Antigonish Bulldogs’ defenseman Kieran Devine in the 2019 Nova Scotia Junior Hockey League playoffs. Warner will be one of the returning forwards this season on a roster that will vie for a league crown. Corey LeBlanc - Corey LeBlanc
PORT HAWKESBURY, N.S. —

The Strait Pirates are focused on taking the final steps in capturing a Nova Scotia Junior Hockey League (NSJHL) crown.    

Last season, the Port Hawkesbury-based team dropped the championship series to the Sackville Blazers in six games.    

“More of the same,” second-year head coach Taylor Lambke said, when asked what fans should expect this year from the team.    

“We came up two games short last season, so we have a group – especially our 19 and 20-year-olds – that wants to get it done,” he added.    

The backbone of the team, once again, will be goaltender Cody Smith, who the Pirates acquired before last season from the Kameron Junior Miners.    

He is part of a strong returning contingent – both up front and on the back end – for the Pirates.    

When asked about training camp, which began on the evening of the Sept. 3 interview, Lambke said it would “not be huge,” when it comes to player invitees – an estimated 35.    

“We have a lot of guys coming back and we signed a few over the summer, so our roster is pretty set,” he noted.    

As for newcomers, Lambke talked about a trio that he expects to be “pretty impactful,” including left winger Jordan Ethridge, who skated last season with the Valley Wildcats of the provincial major midget loop.    

Jason Johnson (Cape Breton West Islanders) and Ty Tracey (Glace Bay Panthers) will provide depth on defense.    

There is also the possibility that Dylan MacLeod, who remains with the Truro Bearcats of the Maritime Junior ‘A’ Hockey League, could don the Pirate jersey.    

Speaking of trios, the Pirates will be without last season’s over-agers; Randon MacKinnon, Matt Morgan and Taylor Pierce.    

“We are going to miss them the most,” Lambke said, noting their leadership qualities and contributions – both on and off the ice.    

When asked about keys to success last season – ones that the Pirates want to continue – the head coach said “we really locked it down and made it tough for people to score.”    

“We really controlled games and didn’t trade chances,” the league’s coach of the year last season added.    

He noted, this season, the Pirates will focus on generating “a little more ‘O’.”    

“We are looking for more balance,” Lambke said, adding the team will take a “few more chances,” with the ‘D’ taking part in the rush on more occasions.    

He noted that doesn’t mean the Pirates won’t continue to be “defensively responsible.”    

When he took over at the beginning of the 2018 season, Lambke noted, the goal for the organization was to build towards a deep playoff run this campaign.    

That success came one year early; something the Pirates want to continue to build on.    

“We think we can have another big season,” he said, while finishing with a league title.    

That would be a great follow-up to the 2018-19 campaign, one in which the Pirates posted the best record in franchise history, one in which the team only dropped three regular season games.    

Lambke, who received other coaching offers in the off-season, signed a six-year extension with the NSJHL organization over the summer.

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