Cape Breton West Major Midgets sweep T-Men to take over fifth place
A mere 12 games ago and fans of the Cape Breton West Islanders were wondering if their team would ever score a goal this season, let alone win a game in the Nova Scotia Major Midget AAA Hockey League.
With 10 points in nine games since joining the Cape Breton West Islanders, Stephen Sisco has taken on the roll of top centre with linemates Declan Smith (No. 92) and captain Alex Bonaparte (in back).
After a sweep of the Cape Breton Tradesmen on the weekend, that included 14 goals scored by eight different players, the team believes it is capable of beating anyone.
“I’m not saying we’re the best team in the league, but I think if we keep working hard and building our confidence, we take anybody,” said Islanders captain Alex Bonaparte.
Bonaparte had a goal and seven assists in a weekend that saw the Islanders beat the Tradesmen 8-2 on Saturday in Glace Bay and 6-4 on Sunday in Port Hood.
He and several veterans, who were slow out of the gate, elevated their game in recent weeks to lift the Islanders out of last place to fifth in the eight-team league.
“To be honest, what it took was a few good practises. It takes time for first-year players to learn this is a team game. They need the older guys to tell them to wake up, and to lead by example. We all needed to approach this with the right attitude,” Bonaparte said.
And with the addition of a few key players, things started happening for the Islanders. Stephen Sisco, Josh Stewart, and Declan Smith all joined three and four games into the season. Even Bonaparte missed two games.
Since then, the line of Sisco at centre, flanked by Bonaparte and rookie Smith, have combined for 29 points.
“I’m enjoying playing with two hard workers who love making things happen,” Bonaparte said. “Nobody wants to let the other guys go in first because we all want to be the first in the corner or the first on the puck. Everyone is working hard.”
On Saturday in the Bay it was veteran leadership from the second line that sparked the eight-goal outburst. Kirkland Bernard, who leads the team in goals with six, scored twice and added two assists. Linemate Donovan Rehill scored twice on the same shift, and Randon MacKinnon found the snakebite antidote with his first goal of the season.
Stewart had a goal and two assists, with the other singles being scored by Sisco and Smith. Bonaparte had three assists.
The Islanders’ fortunes also changed with the addition of goaltender Levi Denny who made 24 saves for the win in goal.
On Sunday in Port Hood, for 40 minutes Cape Breton West truly looked like an unbeatable team, building 2-0 and 4-0 leads over the hapless Tradesmen.
But one good line and a snappy powerplay was all it took for the Tradesmen to capitalize on four boner penalties by the Islanders, who suddenly found themselves clinging to a 5-4 lead late in the third.
“The last 20 minutes were scary,” said Bonaparte. “Some of us got too high on the goals, and some of the younger guys forgot it was a team game and took some bad penalties.”
The game started slowly, with the Islanders missing two powerplay chances early in the first period before Declan Smith scored an even-strength goal at 17:54 and then followed it up with a powerplay goal at 19:41.
At 6:44 of the second period, Islanders defenceman Matthew Morgan flashed a promising shot when he teed off on one from the top of the circle to make it 3-0 on the powerplay.
At 13:06 and on a penalty kill, Josh Stewart crushed a Tradesmen defenceman behind the Sydney net, picked up the puck and circled into the slot for a shorthanded marker to make it 4-0.
The Tradesmen opened the third with a goal at 3:07, just as an Islanders penalty ended. Four minutes later and Sydney was within two.
Sisco put the Islanders up by three again on a play with Bonaparte and Smith at 11:17.
But a minute later the Tradesmen scored another powerplay goal, then scored again with the man-advantage at 18:08 to trail 5-4.
With the faceoff in the Islanders zone, the Tradesmen called a time out and pulled their goaltender for the extra man.
However, Morgan, who had just hit the post on a 180-footer at the empty net, banked a pass off the boards to Bonaparte, who all but tucked the puck in bed for the 6-4 final.
Daniel Liengme made 18 stops for the win in goal. His teammates fired 33 shots at Tradesmen netminder Matthew O’Reilly.
The Islanders (4-8-1) continue their homestand this weekend when they host the Newbridge Academy Gladiators (8-3-2) for games on Saturday at 6 p.m. and Sunday at noon at the Al MacInnis Sports Centre in Port Hood.
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