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‘Do or die’: Valley Wildcats still chasing final playoff berth, inch closer with win against Pictou County

A difference of opinion? Mark Kennedy with the Wildcats, left, and Tyler Hutchinson with the Crushers tangle midway through the first period. Both players received game misconducts for fighting.
A difference of opinion? Mark Kennedy with the Wildcats, left, and Tyler Hutchinson with the Crushers tangle midway through the first period. Both players received game misconducts for fighting. - Gary Manning

BERWICK, NS - Faced with a must-win game on Jan. 27, the Valley junior A Wildcats got the job done.

Goaltender Cole McLaren made 45 saves for the shutout and was named the game’s first star as the Wildcats stopped the Pictou County Weeks Crushers 3–0 at the Kings Mutual Century Centre in Berwick. Makail Parker and Brett Tidman each had a goal and an assist in the victory. Tristan Bowlby also scored, and team points leader Brock McLeod added two assists.

The win was a critical one following a 5–2 loss the previous night against the first-place Yarmouth Mariners. McLeod and Matt Warner scored for Valley in the loss, while Mark Kennedy added two assists.

Wildcats head coach Travis Young says he’s happy with the way his team responded following the loss.

“I liked a lot of our game against Yarmouth,” says Young. “We had a little let down at the start of the second period, which hurt us, and made a couple of mistakes that you just can’t make, but I really liked our bounce back. I thought our leaders really stepped up and answered the bell tonight.”

Less than eight minutes into the game versus Pictou County, Valley had lost Riley Cunningham and Kennedy to game misconduct penalties. Wildcats defenceman Donavon Beatty says everyone worked hard with the short bench.

“Everyone bought in, stuck to the game plan, worked hard, and no matter what happened we never gave up,” he said.

The weekend split moved the Junior A Wildcats up to 30 points on the season, just two back of the Crushers for fifth place in the Eastlink South Division. The bad news for both teams is the recent return to form of the Truro Bearcats, who currently sit in the fourth and final playoff spot with 37 points. Since losing to Valley on Jan. 12, Truro has won four in a row, increasing the pressure on Valley and Pictou County.

"We’re getting to the point where we need to string some wins together,” notes the Wildcats' bench boss. “For us, it’s playoff time right now. The games against Pictou County and Truro are must wins. You can’t afford not to get two points out of those games.”

Other articles you may enjoy:

• Team Canada’s Drake Batherson greets fans at Valley Wildcats game: http://www.kingscountynews.ca/sports/hockey/team-canadas-drake-batherson-greets-fans-at-valley-wildcats-game-in-berwick-175264/

• Newport native Makail Parker closer to home with Valley Wildcats:

http://www.kingscountynews.ca/sports/living-the-dream-newport-native-closer-to-home-with-valley-junior-a-wildcats-172583/

• Charles Grant takes position behind Valley Wildcats bench:

http://www.kingscountynews.ca/sports/hockey/i-just-never-let-up-charles-grant-takes-position-behind-bench-of-valley-wildcats-179374/

Valley and Pictou County play their final head-to-head match up of the season on Feb. 1 in New Glasgow. The Wildcats will also host the Miramichi Timberwolves on Feb. 3 in Berwick.

Young says all his players will have to bring their best effort into Thursday night’s contest.

“It’s do or die for us. We have to treat it as if our season’s on the line.”

Go online: Listen to a free audio stream of the Feb. 1 game in New Glasgow against the Weeks Crushers at www.mixlr.com/jra_wildcats

All Valley Junior A Wildcat home games have a live video stream available through www.hockeytv.com

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