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BERWICK, NS - It wasn’t the end to a successful hockey season they had hoped for but in spite of not winning a provincial banner on home ice, the bantam Valley Wildcats have made some significant strides.
Obviously a disappointing way to end but I said to our guys yesterday we should be real proud of everything we were able to accomplish and the progress we made as a team. - Bantam Valley Wildcats head coach Travis Young
The Wildcats hosted the Nova Scotia Major Bantam Hockey League championships at the Kings Mutual Century Centre in Berwick from March 16 to 19. Although the first-seeded Wildcats played competitively in the round-robin style tournament, they didn’t advance to the medal games.
Nonetheless, head coach Travis Young said it was an “incredibly enjoyable” season. A couple of years ago, the bantam Wildcats won a game or two. This year, they finished the regular season in first place, a “big accomplishment.”
“Obviously a disappointing way to end but I said to our guys yesterday we should be real proud of everything we were able to accomplish and the progress we made as a team,” Young said.
It was “extremely rewarding and a lot of fun” for the coaching staff to work with the players and “hopefully help them along the way a bit.”
Young said the Wildcats got off to a strong start in the opening game against the Dartmouth Whalers on March 16. The Wildcats scored in the first period to take an early lead, led in shots on goal and “had a lot of momentum going.”
However, Dartmouth ended up scoring twice. Young said the Wildcats had a couple of opportunities in the third but weren’t able to capitalize. Giving up an empty net goal late in the period sealed the Wildcats’ fate.
The team regrouped for an afternoon game on March 17 against The Novas. The Wildcats again scored first before falling into a bit of a lull, giving up two goals. However, the Wildcats tied things up and took over from there, ending up winning 7 to 2.
“That was the one team out of those lower seeds that, going in, kind of worried me because they played us real tough all year,” Young said. “As a coaching staff, we were really encouraged after that one.”
He said the Wildcats approached the 8 p.m. game against the Bedford Sports Barons on March 17 like the season was on the line. The Barons scored early and were up by three by the middle of the second period. The Wildcats scored late in the second and twice in the third, ending the game in a three-all tie.
Young said he felt the Wildcats were back on track, setting up a “winner take all” game against the All Credit Auto Rangers on Saturday morning, March 18.
“Obviously playing at 8 on Friday night then turning around and playing at 8 a.m. Saturday morning, we knew it was going to be a challenge in itself,” Young said.
He said the guys came in energized and there was a “good vibe.” However, the Wildcats got off to another slow start, falling behind 2 to 0. They regained momentum with a goal but the Rangers scored two more.
The Wildcats got a power play goal late in the second period, making it 4 to 2, but gave up a short-handed goal early in the third, increasing the Rangers’ lead to three.
The Wildcats scored a couple of quick goals but the Rangers retaliated, making it 6-4. The Wildcats tried to get the offense going but Young said there were a couple of “break downs” followed by an empty-net goal for the Rangers. The final score was 8 to 4.
He said that having so many tournament games end in ties shows how close all seven teams were.
The bronze medal game Sunday was played between the Western Hurricanes and the Landworks Gulls while the gold medal game was played between the Rangers and Whalers.