Nova Scotia champs hope to defend provinces’ Atlantic win last season
HALIFAX – For the majority of the NSMMHL season the Halifax McDonalds were the favourite to finish in first place, especially starting the year off with a 13-game win streak.
© TENA PORIER
Halifax McDonalds forward Ethan Marsh, right, is shown during Game 1 of the NSMMHL final between Halifax and the Newbridge Gladiators. Halifax won the series 4-1 over Newbridge to become the Nova Scotia representative at this week’s Atlantic Major Midget Hockey Championship in New Glasgow.
It’s a start that any team would like to have, but according to head coach Tim Boyce there are some difficulties that do come with being perfect to start the season.
“It was tough at the start of the year obviously because when you’re on such a long winning streak guys can get a little complacent at times and practices become a little tougher because you’re doing so well,” he said. “Kids this age can sometimes think they’re invincible and they know all, so at times it had it’s challenges, but I think the reason we went on a such a winning streak at the start of this year was because a lot of this group was returning and knew each other and there wasn’t that big of a learning curve to start the season.”
The streak ended on Oct. 13 when the Newbridge Gladiators, on four third period goals, won 5-4 over Halifax. Eventually the two teams would meet in the league final with Newbridge holding the advantage in the season series 3-1.
To reach the final against the Gladiators they had to get past the Cape Breton Tradesmen and South Shore Mustangs. Both series went six games with Cape Breton and South Shore each winning Game 1 in Halifax to open their respective series.
The McDonalds bounced back in both and carried the momentum from the 4-0 Game 6 victory over South Shore forward to a big 7-0 Game 1 win over Newbridge in the league final.
It wasn’t a blowout from that game forward as every game was one-goal game for the remainder of the series.
Newbridge won the second game of the series 2-1 before Halifax took three straight, all in overtime, to capture the league championship.
“Every round had its tests and it wasn’t a cake walk by any stretch of the imagination,” said Boyce. “Cape Breton and South Shore both took us to six games and Dartmouth, although we finished it in five, obviously three of them were in overtime and could’ve gone either way. Our guys bared down and when it was crunch time they didn’t panic.”
When looking back to August and September when the team was coming together and putting together goals, Boyce said their goals only focused on the regular season. They didn’t look at the playoffs until the regular season was completed.
“We sat down as a group and let the kids decide on that,” said Boyce. “We had set three goals for the regular season and a couple were statistics based, but one of them was we wanted to finish first in the regular season and then worry about the playoffs when they got here. As far as the playoffs went, we told them to take it one game at a time and whether we won or lost that game is over with and you have to turn the page to the next one.”
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It’s philosophies like the one they had in the playoffs that they will carry into the Atlantic Major Midget Hockey Championship at the Wellness Centre this week. With the McDonald’s wrapping up their series on Tuesday they were given until yesterday off. Boyce said the team will also practice again Monday and Tuesday before taking Wednesday off.
“At this point in the year it’s just reinforcing the things that have gotten us here,” he said. “We’ll take a practice to go over our special teams, a practice to go over our neutral zone transition, forecheck and some ‘D’ zone coverage to reinforce the things we’ve been doing all year.”
Having played all the teams in attendance, albeit a few months ago, he said that does help slightly as they have a rough idea what to expect from everyone.
“I think it helps and obviously knowing a little about your opponent before going in helps you prepare a little better, but I mean the bottom line is we’re focusing on our game and how we play,” said Boyce. “As long as we come to the rink and play our game we’ll be successful and that’s what we’ve told them all year, but it helps that we’ve played the all and we’re not going into each game blind.”
Players to watch include Ethan Marsh, Dillon Boucher and Jordan Bezanson up front.
On defence Patrick Stewart and Ryan MacEachen have led the team all year, although Morgan Nauss and Nicholas Ormon have shown vast improvement as the season progressed.
In goal both Justin Ritcey and Reilly Pickard will see action this week.
Thursday, April 3
1 p.m. Halifax (N.S.) vs. Kensington (P.E.I.)
4 p.m. Central (N.L.) vs. Saint John (N.B.)
7:30 p.m. Opening Ceremonies
8 p.m. Weeks (host) vs. Kensington (P.E.I.)
Friday, April 4
10 a.m. Saint John (N.B.) vs. Halifax (N.S.)
1:30 p.m. Weeks (host) vs. Central (N.L.)
5 p.m. Saint John (N.B.) vs. Kensington (P.E.I.)
8 p.m. Weeks (host) vs. Halifax (N.S.)
Saturday, April 5
9 a.m. Kensington (P.E.I.) vs. Central (N.L.)
12:30 p.m. Weeks (host) vs. Saint John (N.B.)
3:30 p.m. Central (N.L.) vs. Halifax (N.S.)
Sunday, April 6
1 p.m. Gold Medal Game
On Twitter: @NGNewsChris