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‘It’s only going to get better:’ French duo help Wildcats get back on winning side

Local hockey fans can cheer on the Valley junior A Wildcats at the Kings Mutual Century Centre in Berwick.
Local hockey fans can cheer on the Valley junior A Wildcats at the Kings Mutual Century Centre in Berwick. - Gary Manning

BERWICK -- Hockey fans in Berwick may soon be chanting “Allez, allez, allez!” when the Valley junior A Wildcats take to the ice.

After dropping the first two games of a three-game homestand at the Kings Mutual Century Centre Nov. 2–4, the Wildcats bounced back with a 4–0 win over the Truro Bearcats Nov. 4, led by Quebec-born forwards Tommy Roger and Felix Meunier.

The 19-year-olds, both from the Sherbrooke area, led the Wildcat offence with three of the four goals scored, plus one assist each. Bedford’s Matt Warner had the other goal, and Las Vegas native Landon Quinney added three assists, while Sydney’s Liam MacDonald made 32 saves for the shutout victory.

It was a much-needed win for the Wildcats following a 4–1 loss against the Yarmouth Mariners Nov. 2 and a close 4–3 loss against the South Shore Lumberjacks Nov. 3.

“That was a tough one,” Wildcats head coach Travis Young says of the narrow loss to South Shore. “I thought we had a good first period. We had a couple good opportunities to extend that 1–0 lead, but just didn’t get the bounces. The win over Truro was a good character win by our guys to salvage something out of the weekend.”

Roger has already racked up 10 points in seven games for Valley, while Meunier has seven points in just four games. The pair began the season together with the Whitecourt Wolverines of the Alberta junior A League, but were traded to Portage in Manitoba after two games. They played just three games for the Terriers in Manitoba before both came east to the Wildcats. Their arrival gives Valley a trio of native French speakers in the lineup, joining Quebec City's Jean-Mathieu Lavoie, and has helped to radically transform the Wildcat offence from what Young predicted it would look like coming into the season.

“Coming into the year, you’re anticipating Brock (McLeod) and (Kyle) McGrath being the top offensive guys. Then you get Quinney in early on, and as a coach, you’re plotting where everyone’s going to fit in. Then McGrath goes home, Brock gets called up (to the Halifax Mooseheads), and it throws a wrench into what you’re planning.”

Young says Meunier and Roger have added a different dimension to the Wildcats and given the team more balance and depth.

“Obviously, they’re both highly skilled, offensive guys. Just look at the power play. As soon as Tommy got into the lineup, the power play’s clicked. Not to say it’s just those two guys, but it’s allowed other guys to slot into their natural positions. You look at a guy like Warner… his strength’s around the net and earlier on we were having to play him on the half wall and the point. As they get more comfortable, and guys get more comfortable playing with them, it’s only going to get better.”

Valley’s next two games are coming up on the road. On Nov. 8, the team visits the Pictou County Weeks Crushers in New Glasgow. The next night, Valley travels to Yarmouth for another match against the league-leading Mariners.

Valley currently sits fifth in the Eastlink South Division, five points behind South Shore, with the Crushers just two points behind. Young says the Nov. 8 encounter will be the biggest game of the year thus far.

“I think Pictou County has had a similar start to us. The record doesn’t look great, but you look at the number of one-goal losses that we each have and we’re in a lot of games. We’ve got to take care of our business, and win games when we’ve got opportunities to.”

Go online: You can listen to live play-by-play of both upcoming Valley Wildcats road games for free at mixlr.com/jra_wildcats

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