The Cape Breton West Islanders applaud during the silver medal presentation to Metro West Force following the Islanders’ 1-0 win in Sunday’s Midget Female AA provincial final.
-by Bill Dunphy
This time the clock didn’t stop at 14:44.
This time the Cape Breton West Islanders established themselves as the best Midget Female AA team in Nova Scotia, defeating Metro West Force 1-0 in Sunday’s championship game at the St. Margaret’s Bay Centre.
This time last year Metro West scored with 16 seconds left in the championship game to tie the Islanders 2-2 and going on to win 3-2 in a shootout following two overtime periods.
The pain of that loss wasn’t forgotten on Sunday, finally replaced by the joy of a hard-earned and well-played victory.
“It was sickening what happened last year,” said Islanders head coach Darryl MacDonald. “But we took that loss and set our goal this year to make it back to provincials.
“These are two tough teams, but I think we had the edge in overall depth, and Grace Munro.”
Simply put, Munro was amazing.
The Islanders’ backstop allowed just one goal in five games, including two shutouts against Metro West Force. Two weeks earlier she did not allow anyone to score on her to lead the Dalbrae Dragons to the NSSAF Division 2 girls hockey championship.
Making it more amazing is that Munro was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease earlier this season and has had to battle some pain and tiredness associated with the disease.
She said it wasn’t hard getting up for Sunday’s final.
“I get a lot of motivation from talking to the girls, especially Kirstie (team captain Jordan). We knew they really wanted this (and) we’ve always had tough games with Metro West. We all remembered last year, so it was good to win this one,” Munro said.
Jordan said the team supports one another all the time, and they’re all ready to give Munro some extra encouragement.
“It’s tough playing when you’re tired, especially when you have such a big game in front of you. Grace did amazing all weekend,” said Jordan.
Both the Islanders and Metro West were undefeated in the five-team round-robin, playing each other to a scoreless tie (including overtime) on Saturday morning. Cape Breton West finished first based on a better goal differential. The Islanders had 11 goals and one against while Metro West were 9-3.
However, in Sunday’s final, the Islanders might have had home-ice advantage, but Metro West was the home team.
Metro West had four powerplay opportunities to Cape Breton West’s one, with some seemingly apparent penalties going uncalled. Skylar Kennedy took a punch to the head, Morgan Chranofsky took two crosschecks to the face, and Celia MacDonald was hammered into the boards during the final minute of the game – all of which were in full view of the two referees.
But you know what they say about karma.
On the one powerplay the Islanders received, they made the most of it.
In perhaps the best executed powerplay they had all year, the Islanders controlled the play from the faceoff, moving the puck point-to-point, down low, back up high, repeat, until the opportunity came to get it to the net, with Nora MacNeil making good on a rebound from a shot by Celia MacDonald.
The penalty was called at 7:03 of the second period and the goal was scored at 8:08.
The second half of the game saw a few fingernails chewed to the quick.
Metro West, with two powerplays earlier, had two more, including one at 7:57 of the third. But as with the other three, the Islanders’ penalty-kill was outstanding. In fact, Metro West goaltender Kiara Peppar did well not to allow any shorthanded goals.
Metro West called a time out at 13:15 and had Peppar on the bench at 13:30 for an extra attacker, but to no avail as the Islanders remained hard on the puck until the final seconds mercifully ticked down to zero.
“Our goal against the Force was to get any kind of a shot to their net. We have great skaters who can all shoot, and our new forechecking system worked out great,” said coach MacDonald.
He said the team’s offence took a leap forward when Darren MacDonald came on board as an assistant coach.
“It was a real help to get Darren with me. He has been part of the Major Midget program and was an assistant to Sean Donovan. As a result, we had great practices that were at a higher tempo than last year.”
Darren MacDonald said it was worth it just to see the girls play near-flawless hockey.
“They were really good on both sides of the puck this weekend,” he said. “It was nice to see them take advantage of the opportunity they had.”
The Islanders opened the tournament on Friday with a 4-1 win over Metro East Inferno.
Chloe Gillis scored twice, including the winner, with singles from Nora MacNeil and Sian Boudreau. Six different Islanders had assists, including: Jessie Helen MacNeil, Jordan, Kennedy, Sophie Sawler, Keely MacPhail, and Celia MacDonald.
In Friday’s last game of the night, Cape Breton West skated to a 4-0 win over the Colchester County Cyclones.
Celia MacDonald scored the winner, with MacPhail, Chloe Gillis, and Abby Walker all adding insurance goals.
Despite the short turnover, Saturday morning’s 0-0 game with Metro West was well-played at both ends, with goaltenders Munro and Peppar stealing the show.
Cape Breton West needed a win or a tie against the Pictou County Selects in the final game of the round-robin and the Islanders opted for a 3-0 win.
Kirstie Jordan scored a highlight-reel goal at 4:16 of the first period. Apparently trapped on the boards behind the net by two Pictou defenders, Jordan made a backhanded bank-pass to herself off the boards behind her as she broke free of the checkers, then going wide at the net to stretch out the Pictou goalie before depositing the puck nonchalantly into the net.
Nora MacNeil made it 2-0 in the first with a powerplay goal at 10:53, taking a pass from Abby Walker and sliding the puck under an outstretched pad.
At 7:44 of the second period, Skylar Kennedy took a centering pass from Bryanna Smith and ripped a shot home for the 3-0 lead.
The third period was scoreless and included a half-hour long pause in the play after a Pictou County player suffered a head injury after sliding into the boards. Both teams returned to their dressing rooms while awaiting the arrival of paramedics.
Three members of the Islanders were recognized at the awards banquet on Saturday night.
Kirstie Jordan was named the most valuable player of the tournament.
Grace Munro was named a first-team all-star.
Chloe Gillis, with three goals and two assists, received a plaque for top scorer.
A skills competition was held earlier on Saturday, with Munro earning top goaltender honours and Celia MacDonald winning the shooting for accuracy competition.
Seven members of the Islanders ended their Midget career with a provincial championship and they included: Kirstie Jordan, Hannah Gillis, Celia MacDonald, Abby Walker, Sophie Sawler, Emma Munro, and Melissa MacDonald.
“I’m really proud of what these girls were able to accomplish this year,” said Darryl MacDonald. “We have a great group of parents and players who all helped to make this happen.”
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