Islanders dispatch Tradesmen to advance to Major Midget semis
The Cape Breton West Islanders knocked off the Cape Breton Tradesmen in convincing fashion on Saturday to advance to the next round of the Nova Scotia Major Midget AAA Hockey League playoffs.
Islanders defenceman Floyd MacDonald takes care of the man in the crease as goaltender Blade Mann-Dixon keeps an eye on the puck during Saturday's Major Midget AAA playoff action in Port Hood.
Four powerplay goals in the third period and a dominant performance by Bradley Kennedy gave the Islanders an 8-3 win to sideline the Tradesmen 4-1 in the best-of-seven quarterfinal series.
The game started slowly for the Islanders. Errant passes and giveaways, a sluggish powerplay, topped by a shorthanded goal for the Tradesmen had the Islanders down just 1-0 after the first, thanks to the goaltending of Blade Mann-Dixon.
The second period was better for the Islanders as the two teams see-sawed their way to a 3-3 tie after 40 minutes.
The third period was nothing short of awe inspiring as Cape Breton West took complete control of the game and their future.
Kennedy got it going with the eventual game-winning goal at 3:07. Working with Garrett Lambke in a battle for the puck in the Tradesmen zone, Kennedy emerged with it and sent a high backhander through the face of the crease to beat Jordan Latour in the Tradesmen goal.
Midway through the period and on a powerplay, Kennedy delivered a wicked centering pass along the goal line for Colby Tower to pot his second of the game.
From then on it was all Islanders with three more powerplay goals to cement the win.
Connor MacEachern connected on a play with Alex Bonaparte and Regan Spears to make it 6-3.
Three minutes later and Randon MacKinnon flipped a rebound home on a point-blank shot by Kennedy. And less than a minute after that, at 18:01, MacKinnon set up Donovan Rehill on a play with Nick Pino during a five-on-three for the 8-3 final.
Kennedy had two goals and three assists in the game for a total of 11 in the first-round series for a tie in the league playoff scoring race.
“Blade held us in during the first period,” said Kennedy. “And in the last two periods everyone chipped in. This team has a lot of character.”
In describing the centering pass along the goal line, a play he, Tower and Lambke have used before, Kennedy said it comes from having linemates you can trust.
“It’s not really a set play; it’s just that we know where we are on the ice and play well together.”
While up 4-3, Kennedy also made a big block on a point shot, something that didn’t go unnoticed by Islanders coach Sean Donovan.
“Brad is a 70-point man in the regular season, and when you have your goal-scorer lying down in front of a slapshot from the point, you know he’s there to win,” he said.
“Brad has vision and hands that most guys can only dream of having. Together with Colby and Lambke, they see the ice very well.”
The Islanders came back to Port Hood in the position to clinch after having won both rescheduled games in Sydney.
On Tuesday at Centre 200, nine different Islanders scored as Cape Breton West dismantled the Tradesmen 9-0.
Lambke, Troy Hillier, Rehill, Floyd MacDonald, Kirkland Bernard, Mark Wagner, Kennedy, Spears and MacKinnon all had a goal, including four with the man advantage.
Mann-Dixon made 21 saves for the shutout.
Wednesday’s game was tighter, but again Mann-Dixon was up to the challenge as the rookie backstop made 41 saves to stymie the Tradesmen once again in a 2-1 win.
All the scoring came in the first period, with Kennedy and Konnor Timmons doing the damage for the Islanders.
The Islanders will now face a new challenge when they begin their best-of-seven semifinal series this weekend in Berwick against the league-leading Valley Wildcats.
The Valley tore up the NSMMHL during the regular season with a 29-3-1-2 won-lost-lost in OT- lost in SO record. In the quarterfinal series with the South Shore Mustangs, the Wildcats outscored them 21-2 in a four-game sweep.
Cape Breton West is 0-4 in regular season play against the Valley, with those games being played in September and October. In their most recent meeting, in the quarterfinals of the Ice Jam tourney in January, the Wildcats won 6-0.
“Our defence has come a long way since then, to the point where we are able to take away time and space from opposing teams, causing frustration to kick in,” said Donovan.
“Right now we’re in our comfort zone being the underdog. It’s our job to put them in a situation where they haven’t been this year: check them hard and take them out of their comfort zone. Our guys have shown their willingness to buy into our systems and to be role players. The win was nice on Saturday, but once you get a taste of it, you want more.”
Donovan said the series should be a must-see for any hockey fan. “You have the top five scorers in the league (including Kennedy and Lambke), you have the goaltender with the most wins (Mann-Dixon), and two on the other side with the best goals-against average.”
With the first two games in Berwick, the series returns to Port Hood on Saturday, Mar. 2nd, at 6 p.m. and game four on Sunday at noon at the Al MacInnis Sports Centre.
The final three games, if necessary, will be held Tuesday, Mar. 5th, in Berwick; Thursday, Mar. 7th, in Port Hood; and Saturday, Mar. 9th, in Berwick.
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