Pictou County junior B squad continues to focus on defence
TRENTON – It’s no surprise that this time of year is hectic for most, but especially for university students who have final assignments and exams.
A large number of the Pictou County Scotians are attending university or college, as most players at the junior B level do. Every season when exam period comes it generally means that players miss games or that practices are cancelled. Tonight’s game against the Antigonish Bulldogs has been cancelled for this reason as each team has six or seven players who cannot play because of school. The Scotians also didn’t hold a team practice this week.
“I know throughout the organization it’s school first and that’s why the guys are playing junior B,” said assistant coach Al Whidden. “Practice has been very limited the last couple of weeks because of that and this week it was cancelled. We tell them all that we want them to concentrate on their studies and we will work around it this time of year.”
The Scotians have won their last two games and with at least three games remaining before the break are in a similar spot to where they were last season. Last year going into the holiday break they were 10-12-1.
“I know we had lost four in a row, all by a goal besides one that they scored an empty-net goal in, and we were competitive in them all,” he said. “We’re dealing with a couple of injuries right now and our back end is still a work in progress so we’re fairly happy with where we are right now, but we know when we get healthy and if we get a couple of pick-ups that we could be right there with the top teams.”
He said their overall team defence has improved and their three “mainstays” of Brandon MacKenzie, Matthew Oldfield and Nathan Kellar have been important to their improvements throughout the season, logging big minutes every night.
“Those three are going against the other team’s best players every night and usually doing a pretty great job,” said Whidden. “It’s more our team defence than our actual defencemen that we really need to work on.”
Whidden said it has been tough to prepare and work on their systems going into Sunday’s game against the Strait Pirates at the Trenton Arena, but at this point in the season the players have a good idea what the coaches expect from them each game. He also added that most players get on the ice a minimum of once a week in Antigonish to at least skate throughout the week to stay fresh.
“We’ve been trying to do it (work on defensive play) for the last month or so and we have cut our goals against down quite a bit, but again without getting everybody out for practice it’s hard to work on it,” he said.
This weekend the Scotians expect Zach Bates to be in the lineup for his first game. Bates was traded to Pictou County from Brookfield. In return the Brookfield Elks got Jeremy Owens.
Puck drop is 7:30 p.m. Sunday night.
On Twitter: @NGNewsChris