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Apr. 29, 2017

Championship game airs at 7 p.m. AST on TSN

 The Cape Breton West Islanders are looking to make "a little more" history this season.


Cape Breton West defeated the Mississauga Rebels 2-1 on Saturday in their semi-final match-up at the 2017 TELUS Cup in Prince George, B.C. The win earns the Islanders a berth in Sunday’s championship game where the team will take on the Blizzard du Séminaire Saint-Francois.


Antigonish’s Jake Stewart scored the game-winning goal for Cape Breton West 5:23 into the third period, streaking down the left wing and lobbing a puck on net that beat Mississauga netminder Christian Purboo through the five-hole.


River Denys’ Colten Ellis stopped 22 of the 23 shots fired his way to earn the win in goal for the Islanders while Malcolm MacEachern (Long Point, N.S.) notched the other Cape Breton West tally. 


The win capped off an emotional 36 hours for the Islanders who lost 5-2 to the Regina Pat Canadians on Friday. A win would have propelled the team into the semi-finals but instead, they were forced to sit back and await the results of the last two games of the round-robin. 


Fortunately for the Islanders, the Blizzard du Séminaire Saint-Francois defeated the Leduc Oil Kings and the Mississauga Rebels and host Cariboo Cougars battled to a 2-2 draw allowing Cape Breton West to sneak into the semi-finals as the fourth-seeded team.


“We assumed we were out so getting that second chance [tonight], I think, motivated us,” said Cape Breton West head coach Kyle MacDonald after the game on Saturday.


MacDonald admits that after a terrific 2-0 start for his team, the Islanders struggled through their final three games of the round-robin including a 1-0 loss to Mississauga.

"We were a little uptight," MacDonald said. "We didn't generate a lot of offence but, at the same time, that's a great team."

When it mattered most, though, the Islanders found their game again.


“We were certainly more relaxed tonight,” MacDonald said. “We thought that we had nothing to lose.”


Now the Islanders have a chance to win what no team from Atlantic Canada (not even the one from Dartmouth that was led by a young Sidney Crosby in 2002) has ever won: a national Midget championship. It is an incredible opportunity to make history for a rural Nova Scotia team that had just 38 players show up for try-outs at the start of the season.


“They’re just a high-character group of players,” MacDonald said. “I mean, we have high-end talent as well and that’s obvious to anyone who has watched us but we’re a very deep team. We have four lines, six [defencemen] and two great goaltenders. But they’re just high-character. They care about the well-being of the team. They’re so easy to work with so I’m just very thankful to be able to work with them. Obviously they’re a pretty special group to get to where we are.”


It is a group of players that hockey fans in northern Nova Scotia and Cape Breton have been following closely all season.


“Coming from such a small, rural area, this is very meaningful and it’s created so much buzz at home,” MacDonald said. “Everybody is so proud of the guys and they’re behind us and so that’s very motivating for us as a team and I think it drives our guys.”


The 2016-17 season has been a historic one for Cape Breton West. Last month, the team swept the Dartmouth-based Steele Subaru Major Midgets in three-straight games to win their first-ever provincial championship. The victory earned the team the right to represent Nova Scotia at the Atlantic Major Midget Championship where they edged Moncton 3-2 in the final to advance to the national tournament.


While some may have disregarded this rural team made up of kids from small towns coming into the tournament, MacDonald says he and his coaching staff came into the TELUS Cup with high expectations.

“We didn’t know a lot about the competition but we knew what we had within our room and I think that [Sunday], given this opportunity, our guys will, much like [Saturday], leave it all out on the ice,” MacDonald said. “We can’t be worried about making mistakes or anything like that. We just have to play our game and hopefully we get the outcome that will help us make a little more history than we already [have] this year.”


The TELUS Cup championship game gets underway at 7 p.m. AT on Sunday at the CN Centre in Prince George. The game will be broadcast live on TSN.


Hockey Nova Scotia would like to congratulate the Islanders on their semi-final victory and wish them the best of luck in tomorrow’s championship game.

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