By Scott Briggs - Brunswick News
NEW GLASGOW – Saint John Vitos head coach Ken Dobson feels there’s plenty of room for improvement despite his team’s 6-4 win over the Central IcePak of Newfoundland and Labrador Thursday at the Atlantic Major Midget Hockey Championship.
© CHRISTOPHER CAMERON - THE NEWS
Saint John Vitos defenceman Matt McInnis chases down Central IcePak forward Adam Dawe during Thursday action at the Atlantic Major Midget Hockey Championship at the Wellness Centre.
“We didn’t deserve two points today,” the Saint John bench boss said after his club’s first game. “Fortunately, we got it and we’ll refocus now and make our adjustments and make our corrections. It’s a short-term event, so we need to have a short-term memory and be ready to go (Friday).”
Jean-Michel Leblanc scored a hat trick for Saint John (1-0), while singles came from Adam Downey, Tyler Copeland and Matthew Gray. Curtis Hastings and Colin MacSween each had two assists for the Vitos and Kyle Porter stopped 17 shots.
Adam Dawe, Josh Fitzgerald, Jordan Freake and Jordan Maher scored for Central (0-1), which led 2-1 after the first period before falling behind 5-2 through 40 minutes. Maher also notched two helpers and was Central’s player of the game. Curtis Barrett and Noah Weir faced a combined 36 shots.
“The important thing is getting the win,” said Leblanc, Saint John’s player of the game. “We didn’t have the greatest effort, but we just have to concentrate (harder) for the next one.
“There will be some ups and downs all through the tournament, so you have to deal with them and push through them. It doesn’t matter how you get the win, as long as you get it.”
Central grabbed a 1-0 lead when Dawe scored at 4:03 of the first period. Leblanc evened the affair with 1:12 left in the opening frame, beating Barrett on the glove side from close range.
But Central regained the momentum when Fitzgerald scored 32 seconds later and the IcePak took their one-goal lead into the intermission. Saint John started the second period on the power play, but Porter was forced to make a big save on Michael Mason’s short-handed breakaway bid.
“We made so many mistakes today,” Dobson said. “Our guys in the room know that we all have to be better as a group.”
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Downey tied the tilt at 2:27 of the second, beating Barrett with a low wrister during another man-advantage opportunity. The Vitos took their first lead of the game when Copeland cashed in at 12:19.
Sam King set up Leblanc’s second goal at 15:28 and Gray gave Saint John a 5-2 lead 23 seconds later. Barrett was then pulled in favour of Weir.
“They said we had to pick it up, they knew what we could do and we came out and showed it,” said IcePak forward Jordan Maher about what the coaches said in the second intermission.
“We weren’t finishing our checks as much in the second and weren’t finishing our chances. We had some chances there to get some goals, but couldn’t finish. In the third we found a way to come out and get some.”
Freake pulled Central within two at 1:01 of the third period and Maher’s rebound goal made it 5-4 at 3:39. Saint John’s Matt McInnis was called for interference shortly after, but the penalty-killing unit came through.
Central’s Jeremy Drover was sent off for boarding at 13:27, but Saint John looked stiff on the ensuing power play and failed to capitalize. Weir was pulled for the extra attacker with just over a minute remaining, setting the stage for Leblanc’s empty-netter with 16.6 seconds left.
“We had some hope that we could come back and we made it close, but unfortunately we couldn’t get there,” said Maher. “They have a good team and it was a good game.”
Meanwhile, the Vitos have a busy Friday, facing the Halifax McDonalds (1-0) at 10 a.m., before battling the Kensington (P.E.I.) Wild at 5 p.m. Halifax defeated Kensington 3-1 in the tournament opener. The host Weeks Major Midgets face Kensington in the late game.