The Valley Maple Leafs are closing in on taking over the top spot in the Fred Fox Division standings after their victory Saturday night.
The Leafs doubled the division-leading Sackville Blazers 4-2 Nov. 24 in Kentville.
The Blazers' Jacob Coyle, assisted by Justin Hessian and Zack Thomas, opened the scoring in the first period just 5:02 in.
Nick MacKenzie, from Luke Short and Josh Crouse, found the back of the net less than a minute and a half later — tying the score.
With about five minutes remaining in the first period, the Leafs' team captain, Nathan Little, bested the Blazers goalie, putting the hometown team up 2-1. The assist went to Mount Uniacke's Jake Galbraith.
Only the Leafs managed to score in the second period. Brooklyn's Brandon Parker, midway through the frame at 10:55, was fed the puck from Jory Uhlman and Dylan Lowthers and scored what would be the game-winning goal.
The Blazers struck once more, at the top of the third period, on the power play. The goal, from team captain Shayne OderKirk, came at 3:58 into the final period and had the Blazers trailing 3-2. Assists went to Shane Boudreau and Matt Munroe.
Short, known for his seamless transitions from defence to offence, scored the last goal of the night halfway through the final frame. Assists went to Crouse and Adriano Digioacchino.
Mitch Culley earned the win in nets for the Leafs, facing 33 shots. Brennan Laite faced 54 shots, stopping 50 of them.
“Sackville didn't have a whole lot of quality chances throughout the game,” said Leafs assistant coach Rob Lindsay. “Mitch has been playing fantastic for us in net, which always gives the boys that extra bit of confidence.”
Lindsay said the team showed a solid effort right from the beginning.
“The boys are just plugging away. They're cycling the puck down low and digging hard in the corners and that's what it takes to win a hockey game; playing deep in their end and getting some pucks on net,” he said in an interview following the game.
“It's a good two points, especially in our division.”
The first period saw 10 minutes of penalties doled out, spread evenly between the Blazers and the Leafs.
The Valley squad had six penalty minutes called in the second period, while the Blazers' Payton Tench received five minutes for kneeing and a 10-minute game misconduct. Captain Little was helped off the ice after being hit and was taken to the hospital with unspecified injuries.
“He's a good kid, probably one of the best D in the league, and it's his last season playing. We need to get him back in the line up. He's an anchor back there.”
Lindsay said the team was hoping Little's injury wasn't season-ending.
Coyle and Lowthers duked it out near the start of the third period, resulting in both players receiving a 10-minute game misconduct and five for fighting. Lowthers also received two minutes for boarding. The Blazers took a hooking penalty a few minutes later.
With 5:46 left on the clock, the Blazers' Aaron MacDonald received a 10-minute game misconduct, and in the last minute of play, the Leafs' Galbraith received two minutes for roughing.
“I think that the boys came together, showed a lot of good character. We had Lowthers stepping up as a first year kid, proving his point he's not scared to mix it up a little bit and stand up for himself,” said Lindsay. “I couldn't be happier with Nick MacKenzie. The guy is kind of the rookie of the year, in my opinion, so far. He came out of nowhere and has been a solid D on my line up.”
As of press time, the Valley Maple Leafs were trailing the Sackville Blazers by just one point for first place in the Fred Fox Division standings. The Blazers, who have played 17 games, have 23 points while the Leafs, who have played 14 games, have a total of 22 points.
“Every point now in the league, in our division, is tight,” said Lindsay.
“Sackville has a couple games in hand so we have an opportunity to make up some points,” he added.
The Leafs have a road game Tuesday, Nov. 27 against the Brookfield Elks, before returning to Kentville to host the East Hants Penguins at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 1.