To paraphrase Charles Dickens’ opening from his classic A Tale of Two Cities, it is the best of times, it was the worst of times for Randon MacKinnon.
Over four seasons in the Nova Scotia Junior Hockey League (NSJHL), the Inverness native has experienced the highs and lows – moving to the proverbial penthouse from the outhouse.
After a couple cellar-dwelling seasons, the Strait Pirates top the Sid Rowe Division and provincial loop with a sparkling 20-2-1 record.
“We haven’t had a whole lot of success, as a team, until this year, so it is nice to have a team that is on top of the standings,” MacKinnon said.
“It is always really fun to win.”
One of the keys to success for the Pirates has been icing a balanced offensive attack.
“We have 12 strong forwards – even 13 or 14, with two guys not in the line-up each night – who can score,” MacKinnon said Jan. 13 outside the visitor locker room at the Antigonish Arena.
“If someone is not going, we have guys on the other lines that can get the offense going for us.”
The Cape Breton West Islanders’ product reflected on the season, so far, after his team skated to a decisive 7-1 victory over the rival Antigonish Farmers’ Mutual Junior Bulldogs.
“If you look at the stats, we have the least goals-against and we are right up there for the most goals-for in the league, so that’s big for us,” MacKinnon said.
He noted, in recent seasons, scoring goals has never been an issue, but the team, defensively, has faced issues.
“It is nice to have everything going this year,” he added.
MacKinnon, an assistant captain, is fourth in scoring for the Pirates with 14 goals and 11 assists, including two game-winning markers.
“I know I am an offensive player so I just try to contribute as much as I can, upfront, and also help take care of my own end, when I am on the ice,” he said.
MacKinnon credited his line mates – Joshua MacMillan and Sebastian Vella – for helping him improve.
“They are young and bring a lot of energy,” he said of the NSJHL newcomers.
Along with his offensive contributions, MacKinnon continues to be a key team leader.
“Randon has been a really good teammate and a joy to coach,” head coach Taylor Lambke said, adding MacKinnon provides “a lot of leadership” to the Pirates.
He added he is able “to keep guys going,” both on the ice and in the locker room.
On the ice, the second-year bench boss said MacKinnon provides a “big body and big shot.”
“He has tremendous instincts and brings great skill to the table,” Lambke added.
After enduring three losing seasons, MacKinnon has a great appreciation for being part of a winning season, which Lambke said has been crucial to the Pirates’ success.
“He remembers the hard times and is thankful for where we are at, as a team, which he can remind our players of and not let them take anything for granted,” he added.
Lambke noted it is great to see his “energy and enthusiasm” return.
“Randon is a tremendous competitor,” he said.
Lambke added his “excitement about coming to the rink” has been infectious.
Heading down the stretch
Noting the team has “big” regular season games remaining, MacKinnon said the Pirates need “to keep building on our momentum and play hard for 60 minutes each game, and continue that into the playoffs.”
He hopes the strong support from home fans at the Port Hawkesbury Civic Centre – affectionately called ‘The Pirate Ship’ by many – continues in the post season.
“We haven’t lost at home yet, so that’s big. We want to get some packed houses for playoffs – it would be great,” MacKinnon said.
The Pirates will continue regular season action this weekend, at home, when they host the Bulldogs Friday (Feb. 1) at 7:30 p.m.
Sunday (Feb. 3), they will visit the Eskasoni Junior Eagles.
Puck drop is 2 p.m.