Junior A Wildcats still flirting with .500 after weekend split

John Decoste
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Josh Worthen takes control of the puck during the Valley Junior A Wildcats’ 3-2 win against Bridgewater Feb. 1. Worthen had the first goal of the night.  – Gary Manning photo

The Valley Junior A Wildcats continue to flirt with a .500 record for the season after splitting a pair of weekend games on home ice.

The Wildcats dropped a 4-1 decision to Truro Jan. 31 in Kentville, then rebounded nicely for a 3-2 win over the Bridgewater Lumberjacks in a hard-fought contest Feb. 1.

The results left the Wildcats with a record of 18 wins, 19 losses, three overtime losses and a shootout loss, good for 40 points and sole possession of fifth place.

“We're happy with the split. We'd like to have won Friday, but we're really happy with how we played in the second and third periods. We had some good scoring chances, and it was a 3-1 game with an empty net goal. We know that if we play, we can play with them,” said head coach Nick Greenough.

"Saturday was a tough game to play, but we got the two points."

That has already earned them a berth in a playoff mini-series with the fourth-place team in the Eastlink Division of the Maritime Junior Hockey League.

On Feb. 1, Austin Harding had the game-winner at 11:13 of the third period, giving the Wildcats a 3-1 lead. Chad Cullen’s second goal of the game at 13:24 made it 3-2, but that was as close as the Lumberjacks would get.

Josh Worthen opened the scoring for Valley with the only goal of the opening period. John Deacon then scored 59 seconds into the second for a 2-0 Wildcats’ lead. Cullen got South Shore on the board at 3:13 of the second, and it was 2-1 after 40 minutes.

Blade Mann-Dixon stopped 31 of 33 shots in the Valley goal to pick up the win. Former Wildcat Jeff Arkin stopped 29 of 32 at the other end.

The news wasn’t as good for the ’Cats Jan. 31, as Truro, the second-place team in the Eastlink Division, skated to a 4-1 win.

Kyle Tibbo, Jacob Smith (on the power play), Jordan MacNaughton and Brandon Bazinet (into an empty net) scored for Truro, while Jean-Marc Evans-Renaud had the lone Valley goal in the second period.

Final shots on goal were 38-34 in favour of the Bearcats.

The Wildcats are set to become road warriors, with six of their next seven games away from home, beginning Feb. 7 when they visit Summerside. Of Valley’s 10 remaining regular season games, seven of them are on the road.

"We have just one game this week, Friday in Summerside, which is the start of a tough road stretch,” Greenough said. “We'd like to be over .500 the rest of the season, in order to position ourselves for the playoff mini-round. We'll be looking to win as many as we can, and see what happens with the teams ahead of us."

He is happy, overall, with the team’s performance this season.

"This team had 10 points all last season, playing in Metro. We already have 40 points, and with a lot of the same players. The guys are playing well, especially given where they came from,” he added.

See slideshows of both weekend games in our slideshow section.

Organizations: Wildcats, Eastlink Division, Maritime Junior Hockey League

Geographic location: The Valley, Kentville, Summerside South Shore

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