Wildcats advance to division semifinal

Jennifer Vardy Little
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It’s going to be a Cat fight.

The Valley Wildcats celebrate a 3-2 victory in double overtime March 11. The win over the Yarmouth Mariners secured the Kentville squad a berth in the semifinals.

The Valley Wildcats pulled off a win over the Mariners to end Yarmouth’s season in double overtime.

Colby Tower had the eventual game winner for Valley with just under seven minutes left on the clock.

“It’s something else,” Tower said, adding that he couldn’t explain how happy he was at that moment.

“I wouldn’t have been able to do it without my line mates. As soon as we got it behind the net, it was quick passes and a quick shot. It was lucky it went in. I’m going to celebrate with the boys, it’s going to be good.”

The shot – which went over Yarmouth goalie Chase Gaudet’s shoulder as the standing-room-only crowd went wild at the Kentville arena – made it a 3-2 game for Valley.

The Wildcats came out on the ice for the second overtime period with winning on their mind and kept the pressure on the Mariners, who had their backs against the wall after Valley took Game 1 of the best-of-three series in the Fishtank March 10.

“I think it was the song we play after every intermission – coach gives us the talk and that song was played in the background, and I think that really pumped up the boys,” Tower said. The tune? “An oldie but it’s a classic,” Towers said, Eminem’s “Lose Yourself.”

He added that he was proud of the Wildcats organization, which made the move from Halifax to Kentville over the summer.

“I know they didn’t have a lot of wins last year, so coming back here and winning this is pretty big for us,” Tower said.

Head coach Nick Greenough called the night “a big win for our organization,” adding that when they started the year, they “wanted to make the playoffs, and then if we made the playoffs, to go as far as we can. We’re a long way from four wins all last year. I’m real proud of the guys, they all stepped up.”

Tower had nothing but praise for Yarmouth, which seemed to dominate the earlier periods of the game. The Mariners were the first to get on the clock, with a first period goal by Danny Wicks, off the stick of Kyle Campbell and Josh Desmond. Valley came back in the second to tie things up with a goal by Jeremy Butterworth, off the stick of Brad Ryckman and Brady Atwater, to make it 1-1 at the end of the second.

The third period saw Kyle Campbell score again for the Mariners, with assists going to Wicks and Justin Rasmussen, but with just under five minutes left to go, Jean-Marc Evans-Renaud scored for Valley to force the overtime. Sheehan Kirkwood and Austin Harding had the assists for that goal.

“Yarmouth is a great squad, they beat us a couple of times in the regular season and we got one on them, but props to them, it was a great game and a great series,” Tower said.

“It was definitely an underdog situation we were in, and there’s no better feeling than the underdog winning.”

Tower was named first star in the game, while Wildcats goalie Blade Mann-Dixon received the second star.

“It was a good team effort tonight,” said Mann-Dixon. “All the things we were doing wrong all season really came together and the boys picked up sticks, no backdoor plays, which made it easier for me.”

Mann-Dixon has routinely faced between 50 and 60 shots a night over the past few months leading up to the playoff mini-series, and on March 11, he stopped 53 of 55 shots in a game that saw Yarmouth outshoot Valley 55-28.

“I get as low as I can,” he said. “I’m not a very big guy so I can’t be looking over them, so I get down really low.”

And as for where they go from here?

"We take a deep breath, take the night off and get ready for Saturday night in Truro," Greenough said.

The Truro Wildcats, who finished first overall in the MHL, are likely going to be a tough team to beat, Tower admits.

“It’s definitely going to be interesting. Truro’s one of the top teams in the league and I think if we battle hard, we can win some,” Tower said.

Mann-Dixon agrees.

“I think if we show up, we can give them a good run and hopefully take it,” he said.

He was already thinking ahead, with plans for a practice on March 12 in preparation for their first game against the Bearcats, which will be played March 15 in Truro.

He added that winning the mini-series will be a great confidence booster for the Valley squad leading into the semifinals.

“But we can’t let it get to our heads, either – we have to stay focused,” he said. “It was nice to win in two, we didn’t want to have to go back to the Fishtank.”

Organizations: Wildcats, Mariners, Wildcats organization

Geographic location: Yarmouth, Kentville, Colby Tower Halifax Truro

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