Bolstered by the addition of an impressive core of first-year players, the Valley major midget Wildcats opened the regular season by winning two of three games.
“We’re off to a great start,” Wildcats’ head coach Nick Greenough said Sept. 19. “It’s been a long time coming, it seems.”
The Wildcats have “a lot of key players returning from last year,” he said, “and with all our new players, it’s really promising.”
The Wildcats came very close to sweeping all three games. In their season opener, Sept. 16 against the South Shore Canadian Tire Mustangs, the Mustangs’ Bronson Benight broke a 4-4 tie with 3:29 to play.
South Shore led 3-2 after one period and 4-2 at the end of the second before the Wildcats tied the score.
Nicholas Blanchard, the provincial major bantam league’s leading scorer last season, led the Valley offence with three goals, two of them on the power play, and also earned an assist for a four-point night.
Zach Moody, another first-year midget, had the other Wildcats’ goal and also added an assist. Avery Clarke scored twice for South Shore.
The following evening, the Wildcats took on the Cape Breton Tradesmen in the first of a back-to-back weekend series.
Blanchard had two more goals, including a third powerplay marker, and Jeremy Parker also scored twice, one of them a shorthanded goal.
After a scoreless first period, the Wildcats led 2-0 after two. The teams each scored two goals in the third period.
On Sept. 18 in Berwick, Valley built a 3-1 lead after one period and skated to another 4-2 victory over Cape Breton.
Blanchard had another goal and an assist, giving him six goals and eight points in three games, earning player of the week honours for the league.
Tyler Brown had a pair of goals for the Wildcats, and Rory Graham netted the other Valley goal on the power play. Greenough was pleased with his team’s performance in all three games.
“We were right there in the game we lost, too. The coaching staff is really pleased and exited with the start we’ve had.”
Unfortunately, the ’Cats “have lost three or four players to injuries (including Moody, who separated a shoulder in Saturday’s game), but to their credit, everyone has stepped up really well to fill the gaps.”
Greenough noted that Blanchard, who began the season on a line with Moody and veteran Tyler Brown, “has really elevated his play. We hope all our new players will be able to jump right in and contribute, but the reality is that bantam to midget is quite a jump for many of them.”
The fact Blanchard has been able to make the impact he has so quickly is a credit to his talent.
“That whole line of Blanchard, Moody and Brown is already showing great chemistry as a unit. Their hockey sense is as good as I’ve seen in the four years I’ve been here.”
The ’Cats, with an unprecedented 19 Valley players on the roster, were scheduled to meet the Mustangs Friday evening in Bridgewater and host the Halifax Titans Sunday afternoon in Berwick.
Next action for the team will be Oct. 1 and 2 when they meet the Pictou County Weeks midgets in a two-game weekend series in New Glasgow.