Heading into the 2012-13 Nova Scotia Junior Hockey League season, the first-year Valley Maple Leafs were the underdogs. Expectations were not high that the fledgling team would end the season anywhere but in last place.
The team proved naysayers wrong, holding their own as they not only earned a playoff berth in the very tight Fred Fox Division, but pushed the first round of playoffs with the Sackville Blazers to five games.
On March 4, the Leafs were in a do-or-die playoff situation with the Blazers. If they won, they forced game six in the best of seven series. If they lost, their season was over.
The game was tight, with Sackville squeaking out a 2-1 victory to win the Fred Fox Division semi-final four games to one.
Following the game, assistant coach Rob Lindsay said he couldn’t be more proud of the effort put forward.
“We obviously wanted to go a bit further in playoffs but the odds were against us from the beginning. No one expected us to be here,” said Lindsay. “If you look back at the beginning of the season, we didn't even have jerseys. We had to raise money for that and all the way through. I think we've done an excellent job.”
Adam Brown, assisted by Andrew Stewart and Ryan Davis, put the Blazers up early in the first period. Three penalties were called in the first period, all to the Blazers’ Andrew Skinner.
Despite several chances, the Leafs couldn’t find the back of the net to get the equalizer until halfway through the second period. Craig Anderson, from Joe MacDougall, scored the lone Leafs marker.
With just 5:35 remaining in the game, Matt Arthur potted the game-winning goal in the back of the Valley net. He was assisted by his brother, Brett Arthur, and Cody Peveril.
The second period was a scrappy one, with a number of penalties being called. The Leafs’ Greg Brown was the first to spend time in the penalty box, picking up a 10-minute misconduct and two minutes for head contact, with 17:21 remaining to play in the second period.
MacDougall and Jordan Keizer then tangoed nine minutes into the middle frame, with MacDougall receiving a 10-minute misconduct and two minutes for roughing after the whistle. The Blazer, who got physical with an official and threw a water bottle onto the ice from the bench, received a 10-minute gross misconduct, 10-minute misconduct, two minutes for roughing after the whistle and was ejected from the game.
About four minutes later, Sackville’s Davis was also ejected from the playoff game. He received a 10-minute game misconduct and two minutes for checking from behind. Brooklyn’s Brandon Parker received a two-minute penalty for defending his teammate by roughing after the whistle.
Valley picked up two additional two-minute penalties in the second period; David Hayes for tripping and Luke Short for hooking.
In the third period, just two penalties were called — both to the Valley Maple Leafs. Brady Fisher received two minutes for tripping within two minutes into the period, and Andrew Squires had a two-minute slashing call midway through.
Olafr Schmidt was in nets for the playoff loss, stopping 38 of 40 shots fired on net.
Brennan Laite picked up the win, facing 35 shots and stopping 34.
The playoff game marked the final game for four over age players on the Leafs: Jake Galbraith (from Mt. Uniacke), Austin Himmelman, team captain Nathan Little and alternate captain Jory Uhlman.
Lindsay said Galbraith was “probably one of the most character guys in the league,” and said, “no one works the wall better” than Himmelman does.
Lindsay said Uhlman was a “key, confident, power forward” who was consistently putting points on the scoreboard. He finished the 2012-13 regular season at the top of the Fred Fox Division for points, having garnered 43 — 16 goals and 27 assists.
“Nate Little has been a pillar on our defense for this year and last year when we were with the Royals. He's one of the best defenseman in the league,” said Lindsay.
The assistant coach went on to say they have a strong core group of players eager to return next year.