PICTOU COUNTY - Wrapping up their regular season on Sunday with a 9-6 win over the Cape Breton Tradesmen, the Weeks Major Midgets are now turning their focus to this weekend‚Äôs playoff series against the Halifax Titans.
Finishing seventh in the NSMMHL, the Weeks Major Midgets will play back-to-back games against the second place Titans this weekend, followed by two back-to-back games the following weekend at home in the best-of-seven series. Where the team finished in the standings doesn‚Äôt speak to where the team is now compared to the beginning of the season according to head coach Dave MacIntyre. He said the coaching staff and players are confident they can defeat Halifax.
‚ÄúAs a coaching staff we‚Äôre confident ‚Äď and we‚Äôve said it to the players ‚Äď that from the start of the year to now we‚Äôre a different team,‚ÄĚ said MacIntyre. ‚ÄúWe‚Äôve played very well against Cape Breton, who are in fifth place and on paper we‚Äôre not supposed to beat them, but we dominated against them the last few games. We played well against Halifax and have played well the last month of games and the staff has the confidence that we‚Äôre going to upset the teams we face in the playoffs.‚ÄĚ
MacIntyre said the turnaround for his team really started around the Chronicle Herald East Coast Ice Jam in Halifax. He said the team gained confidence at the tournament that has carried over to regular season games.
‚ÄúSince the tournament in Halifax at the first of the month we‚Äôve put together a string of good games, the confidence has gone a long way and was very positive,‚ÄĚ he said. ‚ÄúThis past weekend we deserved to win both games and outplayed them Saturday night with six or seven breakaways, but couldn‚Äôt score. I think on Sunday was just a carryover from Saturday night, outplaying them badly, but finally putting the puck in the net.
‚ÄúThe guys are on an upswing it seems to be and a few weekends ago we played well against Halifax in a 3-2 game late when we were pushing hard before they got a late one.‚ÄĚ
When asked about the team‚Äôs goaltending situation approaching the playoffs he said there is confidence in both Tanner Doiron and Luke Melanson. He said Doiron has stepped up his game lately and is playing better, but Melanson has proven to be the number one man between the pipes.
This week in practice MacIntyre said they will partially focus on Halifax, but also continue to work on their own game. He said the focus on Halifax will be on what they do on a regular basis on the power play and even strength.
‚ÄúIt‚Äôs a year-long thing to focus on little things in your own end, making sure you‚Äôre getting the puck out of your end to get the puck into their end,‚ÄĚ he said. ‚ÄúWe‚Äôve been on our guys to work on turnovers at the blue line because with turnovers against good teams they pounce on those opportunities. If you cut those down you‚Äôre going to cut down their opportunities.
‚ÄúWe need to stay out of the box and we need to focus on that as well.‚ÄĚ
He added that he believes his team will come to play this weekend because they ‚Äúget up‚ÄĚ for big games. MacIntyre believes a healthy rivalry between the two teams will add to the atmosphere surrounding the series.
‚ÄúI think it‚Äôs against the better teams, the ones that are ranked higher than us, that they come out to play against,‚ÄĚ he said. ‚ÄúThey play their better games against the tougher teams and all year we‚Äôve come out and played well against Halifax because we know we have to put our ‚ÄėA‚Äô game on the table, we can‚Äôt show up against a team that‚Äôs similar to us and play at that level. I think the guys get up for it and there‚Äôs a good, healthy rivalry there.
‚ÄúI don‚Äôt think it‚Äôs a negative rivalry, I think it‚Äôs positive between two teams that play well against each other because the games are back and forth, it‚Äôs good hockey and we know what we have to do to beat them.‚ÄĚ
Game 1 ‚Äď Feb. 2 ‚Äď 6:30 p.m. ‚Äď Civic Arena (Halifax)
Game 2 ‚Äď Feb. 3 ‚Äď 12 p.m. ‚Äď Civic Arena (Halifax)
Game 3 ‚Äď Feb. 9 ‚Äď 7:30 p.m. ‚Äď Pictou County Wellness Centre
Game 4 ‚Äď Feb. 10 ‚Äď 1:00 p.m. ‚Äď Pictou County Wellness Centre