It’s a repeat for the Yarmouth Jr. A Mariners on the division front, but the team is hoping for a change from last year when it comes to MHL’s ultimate crown.
For a second consecutive year the Mariners have won the MHL’s Eastlink South Division Championship and are heading to the league's Canadian Tire Cup championship final playoff series.
Last year the Mariners made it as far as Game 6 of the league final, which was won by the Edmundston Blizzard.
The Mariners won the Eastlink South division title – and also the Hockey Nova Scotia banner for the top junior A team in the province – in Bridgewater on April 9, with a 7-1 victory over the South Shore Lumberjacks in Game 6 of division final series. Hundreds of Yarmouth fans made the trek to Bridgewater to cheer on their team and were loud and proud throughout the game.
Helping to pace the Mariners to their victory was an explosive second period in which the team scored five unanswered goals.
“It was a good feeling. It was a good feeling last year and to do it again is great,” said player Logan Timmons who scored two of the Mariners’ goals in the game. “To have that feeling two years in a row, what more can you ask for?”
Asked how he would describe the game, Timmons said, “It was tough at first, but after that big second period that we had with five goals, I think they kind of died down, I think they knew it was coming to an end. But it was a still a tough game, they’re a good club.”
Timmons opened the scoring 1:56 into the first period on the powerplay, with South Shore’s Logan O’Neil scoring the Lumberjack’s lone goal of the game at 9:23, also on the powerplay. Scoring in the second period for Yarmouth were Brent Broaders, Timmons, Cade Neilson, Landon Quinney and Matt Barron. Quinney added the Mariners’ last goal on the scoreboard early in the third period.
In net for the Mariners, Tyler Casely stopped 23 of 24 shots. In net for South Shore, Ty Grant stopped 31 of 38 Mariners' shots. Goalie Morgan Kini made a a couple of saves on a couple of shots when he was brought in during the second period. (Click here for the MHL's recap of the game.)
UPDATE: The Mariners will face the Campbellton Tigers in the Canadian Tire Cup Final. The Campbellton Tigers defeated the Summerside Western Capitals 2-0 in Game 6 of the Eastlink North Division final on April 10 to win the series. Summerside has finished the regular season in first-place in the division and the league.
Because Yarmouth finished first in it's division in the regular season and second in the league, the Mariners will have home ice advantage during the playoff final series. It was only decided the night after the Mariners won their own division championship who they would play.
“Whoever we play, they’re two good clubs,” Timmons had said in an interview after the Mariners’ Game 6 win. “It’s going to be tough, but I think we have the right group of guys to do it. We have unbelievable players, unbelievable goaltending.”
Head coach Laurie Barron expressed a lot of pride for his Mariners club after their division victory and also respect for the teams they faced in the playoffs. The Mariners swept their semifinal series against the Truro Bearcats before playing their six games against South Shore.
“We beat two great hockey clubs, we’re going to have to beat three to get to Amherst. We’re looking forward to it,” Barron said, referring to the Fred Page Cup that will be held in Amherst May 1-5. Last year the Mariners fell short of a trip to the eastern Canadian junior A championship. This season their push continues to complete the task.
Last year was the Mariners first trip back to the league final since 2012, when they lost in triple overtime in Game 7 against the Woodstock Slammers. In 2008 the Mariners had won the league title in a series with the Slammers, winning the series in six games.
To have back-to-back shots at a league championship – this year and last – is exciting for the team.
“I’m just so happy for the guys, and for all the 20-year olds and everybody,” Barron said after the Mariners’ division championship win. “We just beat two really good hockey clubs but now we all want a shot at the big stage. They’ve made my job real easy. They’ve been awesome. Hopefully this is the one.”
Barron said the hometown fan support during the road victory was also great to see. The Lunenburg County Lifestyle Centre where the Lumberjack play is known to be a loud building with its boisterous fans and this game was no exception. But the Mariners fans made their presence known too.
“It didn’t feel like you were on your own,” Barron said.
Asked what attributes most to the team’s success this season – the Mariners finished the regular season in first place in their division before winning their two playoff rounds – Barron said, “It’s such a great group of kids. I’ve seen a lot of these teams, but I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a group of kids that are such a good group, care about one another, care about all of the little parts that may not seem important to everyone else, but it is to them."
“Honestly I think it’s our time," he said, "their time.”