Pirates collect four points in pair of division wins
You have to win the games you’re supposed to win, and the Strait Pirates did just that for a four-point weekend in the Nova Scotia Junior Hockey League.
Scott MacLean has been enjoying his return to the Strait Pirates this season, scoring twice on Friday against Cumberland, including the winner and this goal to make it 4-0, and again on Sunday in Antigonish.
The Pirates had two Sid Rowe Division rivals on the schedule, beating the Cumberland County Blues 4-0 on Friday night in Port Hawkesbury and rallying for a 7-4 win over the Bulldogs in Antigonish on Sunday.
“You have to play and win those games and we did our part. Now it’s to get ready for the next game I have circled on my calendar,” said Pirates coach Tim MacMillan.
That game is this Friday’s match-up with the Sackville Blazers, who beat the Pirates up 9-1 in Sackville on Oct. 14th. “The score was indicative of the play – we got destroyed. So playing them Friday will be a measuring stick for us, to see where we’re at 11 games into the season.”
The four points on the weekend has the Pirates at 7-3-1 for 15 points, four behind the Glace Bay Miners, with the Pirates holding a game in hand and without the two division leaders having played each other yet this season.
Friday’s win at home was a solid effort that featured a shutout by Marcus Otmar in his first Junior B regular-season game. The backup to Shawn Jeffrey, who played Division 1 high school in Halifax last season, made 25 saves for the win.
Scott MacLean led the Pirates on offence, scoring the only goal of the first period when he tipped a point shot by Nathan Hayes past Cumberland goalie Jessie Cox.
MacLean, who was dealt to Pictou by the Pirates last season but was re-acquired three games ago, also scored the last goal of the game, with Michael Scarth and Hayes again picking up assists.
The Pirates scored three in the second frame, with David Greencorn lighting the spark with a shorthanded goal at 8:14, beating a Blues defenceman on the right wing and snapping a backhand high on Cox.
Steven Campbell scored from his knees in a goal-mouth scramble to make it 3-0 at 14:14. MacLean’s goal came at 15:53, and the third period was scoreless.
In Antigonish on Sunday, Gavyn Connell-Helle had the Pirates up 1-0 at 2:31 of the first before the Pirates started collecting the only five penalties called in the first period. This allowed the Bulldogs to score three times with the man advantage for a 3-1 lead after 20 minutes.
The Pirates worked their way back into the game in the second period with three unanswered goals to take a 4-3 lead.
MacLean, a powerplay goal by Kenzie Dowie, and defenceman Dale MacIntosh all helped to bring up Keagan Butler’s goals-against average.
The Bulldogs’ fourth powerplay goal tied the game 4-4 seven minutes into the third period, but that was all she wrote for Antigonish.
A second powerplay goal by Dowie, plus goals from Morgan Timmons and Brennan Delaney, all in a span of two minutes, gave the Pirates the 7-4 win.
“Last night, taking the first five penalties got us in a rut, but we got it under control in the second (and) Matt Papineau’s fight gave the boys the spark they needed,” said MacMillan on Monday.
The Pirates coach said penalties and spending too much time in their own end are two problems he wants to solve by Friday.
“We are taking too many penalties; and the decisions we’re making with the puck are not helping us in our play in our own end. I’m confident we’ll fix both problems.”
MacMillan agreed that the Pirates were a little tougher this year compared to recent years when they’ve consistently led the league with fewest penalties.
“Yes, we have a size advantage over some teams and we’re a little tougher, and I don’t mind that. It’s the retaliation penalties; getting caught in bad situations; penalties in the offensive zone; giving up five-on-threes; that’s the stuff I don’t like.”
The biggest surprise for MacMillan this year has been the play of Gavyn Connell-Helle and Kenzie Dowie, who both hail from Ontario.
“They’ve been a great surprise, coming out of nowhere and now leading our team in scoring,” he said, also noting the play of MacLean.
“It’s good to have Scottie back. Not only does he have three goals in three games, he contributes in many other ways; he sets up well in the offensive zone and he gets on people and gives them no breathing room.”
Both Connell-Helle and Dowie have eight goals and six assists each for 14 points in 11 and 10 games respectively.
The Pirates host the Sackville Blazers this Friday, 7:30 p.m., at the Port Hawkesbury Civic Centre. They’re in Trenton on Sunday for a 7:30 p.m. game with the Pictou County Scotians.
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