The Valley Maple Leafs secured five of a possible six points in the Nova Scotia Junior Hockey League standings this past week, defeating the Sackville Blazers 7-2, romping over the East Hants Penguins 9-1 before losing to the Pens in a shootout the following night.
On Sunday, Jan. 27, the Leafs visited East Hants for round two of their home-and-home series. Kyle Kavanagh started off the scoring for the Leafs. Jamie Sweet, of the Penguins, assisted by Devin Vanderkooi, responded with 5:41 remaining in the first. Joe MacDougall then scored, putting the Leafs up 2-1. The second period was scoreless.
Assisting the Leafs' goalscorers were MacDougall, Brady Fisher and Alex Seyforth.
In the dying five minutes of the third, Sweet struck again to knot the game 2-2. Nothing was solved following a five minute overtime. The shootout came down to just one player scoring, and that was Sweet, who bested Olafr Schmidt to win the game 3-2.
Kinnon MacMillan was in nets for the Penguins for the win, stopping 30 of 32 shots on net. Schmidt stopped 21 of 23.
“If you had've asked on Friday if I'd be happy with three of four points this weekend, I would have been ecstatic. It's kind of tough to swallow right now just based on how we played,” said Rob Lindsay, the Valley Maple Leafs assistant coach, following the Jan. 27 game.
The shootout loss gave the Leafs an additional point, tying them for first place in the Fred Fox Division with the Brookfield Elks.
Lindsay said he was disappointed with the Sunday night effort and will be working the guys hard before they play again.
“Every game is important at this stage. The boys are going to have a tough practice this week that's for sure,” said Lindsay.
“They just really need to get back to what they know how to do – stop the puck, crash the net, score some goals.”
Saturday night highlights
The Leafs dominated the Penguins when they met Jan. 26 in Berwick. The boys racked up nine goals to East Hants' one, with Bridgewater's Jory Uhlman, and Kings County's Colin Gillis and David Hayes all registering a five point night.
Luke Short put the Leafs ahead in the first period 1-0. By the time the second period was over, the Valley squad led 5-1. Gillis started the scoring off in the second, then Hayes had two goals 33 seconds apart, and Uhlman tallied one. East Hants rookie Cole MacDonell, assisted by Alex Porter and Steven Richard, scored in the dying two minutes of the second period to give East Hants their lone goal of the game.
Uhlman struck fast starting off the third period, registering his second goal of the evening just 12 seconds into the final frame. MacDougall, on the power-play, tallied one, then Gillis potted another. Short finished the scoring for the local team with under five minutes remaining on the clock.
Assisting in the Leafs win were Hayes, Uhlman and Gillis with three, team captain Nathan Little with two and Austin Himmelman, Andrew Squires, Jeff Longaphy, Fisher, and Mount Uniake's Jake Galbraith with singles.
In an interview following Saturday's game, Lindsay said he was pleased with the performance.
“It's nice, from that first line, to get a lot of output from them. That's a big thing. We've been waiting for them to get the plugs going and they seem to find the back of the net. That line is really clicking right now,” he noted.
Hayes, Uhlman, and Gillis are on that first line.
According to the NSJHL rookie scoring leader-board, Gillis is now in second place with 28 points, having scored 11 goals, four of which were game winning goals, and assisted teammates on 17 others.
Lindsay said the guys on the power-play clicked better too, and defense was strong.
There were two fights in the third period, which riled up the fans. Seyforth and East Hants' Alexander Berry were the first to throw down. Just before the 10-minute mark of the third, Mike McGahey challenged Brooklyn's Brandon Parker. The Leafs won both bouts.
“It doesn't matter how many goals you win by, it's still only two points in the league. With the standings being as tight as they are, it's a big deal to make a win. It doesn't matter how big or small it is, it's two points that we need for sure.” - Rob Lindsay
“The boys aren't scared of scrapping,” said Lindsay. “They don't mind sticking up for each other, which is nice to see. They play team-tough, and they play as a good group together.”
Alex Mader, a Jr. C goalie the Leafs picked up after starting goaltender Mitch Culley broke his collarbone, was in nets for the win. He stopped 23 of 24 shots. MacMillan and Jason Ellis shared time in nets for the Penguins. MacMillan faced 15 shots and allowed six, while Ellis faced 20 shots and allowed three.
“It doesn't matter how many goals you win by, it's still only two points in the league. With the standings being as tight as they are, it's a big deal to make a win. It doesn't matter how big or small it is, it's two points that we need for sure.”
Leafs start with 7-2 win in Sackville
Earlier in the week, the Leafs travelled to Sackville to take on the Blazers Jan. 21.
Squires started the scoring off in the first period for the Leafs. Hayes followed that up with another goal, giving the Leafs a 2-1 advantage heading into the second. They led 3-2 at the conclusion of the second period, thanks to a goal from Galbraith.
Halfway through the third period, the Leafs broke the game open and scored four times, with Gillis registering a power-play marker, Squires netting his second goal of the night, and Hayes potting two more.
Uhlman led the way with three assists, while Gillis and Short each had two. Other helpers went to Hayes, Galbraith, MacDougall, Mark Swain, and Kavanagh.
Mader was in nets for the win, stopping 32 of 34 shots. Brennan Laite was tagged with the loss. He faced 39 shots, allowing seven.
The Leafs will be back in action this Friday, Feb. 1 when they host the Eastern Shore Jr. Mariners in Berwick at the Kings Mutual Century Centre at 8 p.m.