A return to the McDonald’s name meant a return to Canada’s National Midget Championship for Halifax, which is back at the tournament for the fifth time, more than any team in this year’s field.
Three of the city’s first four appearances (1980, 1983, 1994) came as the Halifax McDonald’s, while the most recent, at the 2011 TELUS Cup in St. John’s, N.L., came under the Halifax Titans moniker.
Despite four previous opportunities, Halifax has never won a medal at the national championship – its best finish was fourth place in 1980 – and the Atlantic Region as a whole is still looking for its first gold medal.
In fact, in the first 40 years of Canada’s National Midget Championship, only one Atlantic team – the 2002 Dartmouth Subways, led by a 14-year-old Sidney Crosby – has even played for a national title, and the Macs’ coaching staff is making sure its players know their TELUS Cup history.
“We are just making sure the kids believe that we belong,” Halifax head coach Tim Boyce told the Moose Jaw Times-Herald. “Atlantic hasn’t had a great track record at the tournament in years past. We have never won gold and the best is silver. We want the mindset of our guys coming there with a chip on their shoulders with something to prove … just prove that we belong.”
The Macs earned most of their regular-season wins in a pair of long winning streaks, opening with 13 straight victories and running off an 11-game streak near the end of their schedule. And they needed every one of those wins, finishing just four points up on Newbridge Academy for first place in the NSMMHL.
Halifax opened its playoff run with a harder-than-expected six-game win over the Cape Breton Tradesmen – a team that finished 45 points back of the Macs in the regular season – and needed another six to eliminate the South Shore Mustangs in a series Halifax trailed 2-1.
In the league final, the Macs split the first two games against Newbridge Academy before winning three straight in overtime, including a double OT win in Game 3, to claim the NSMMHL title.
Halifax was the class of the Atlantic Regional in the round robin, outscoring its opposition 16-3 in four games and setting up a championship game match-up with the Saint John Vitos, with the winner headed west.
Unlike their round robin win over the Vitos, a 5-0 romp, there would be no one-sided victory for the Macs in the Atlantic final; in fact, Halifax found itself down 4-2 early in the second period before three unanswered goals – including the last two of Johnny Jones’ hat trick – clinched a 5-4 win and a berth in the TELUS Cup.
“It was a roller-coaster ride,” Boyce said of the regional final. “Our guys just stuck with it and they’ve had a never-say-die attitude all year and they kept working and pulled it off.”
HOW THEY GOT TO MOOSE JAW
Nova Scotia Major Midget Hockey League
Quarter-final: defeated Cape Breton 4-2 (2-3, 8-2, 4-0, 8-2, 1-2, 7-2)
Semifinal: defeated South Shore 4-2 (1-2 OT, 4-2, 1-3, 4-0, 4-1, 4-0)
NSMMHL championship: defeated Newbridge Academy 4-1 (7-0, 1-2, 5-4 2OT, 5-4, OT, 4-3 OT)
Round robin: finished first at 4-0 (defeated Kensington 3-1, defeated Saint John 5-0, defeated Pictou County 2-1, defeated Central 6-1)
Championship: defeated Saint John 5-4
Record: 28-4-2 (1st in NSMMHL)
Goals For: 147 (3rd in NSMMHL)
Goals Against: 74 (1st in NSMMHL)
Longest Winning Streak: 13 (Sept. 11-Oct. 16)
Top 3 Scorers:
- Luc Poirier – 15G 37A 52P (1st in NSMMHL)
- Johnny Jones – 19G 20A 39P (9th in NSMMHL)
- Dillon Boucher – 16G 22A 38P (11th in NSMMHL)
Goals For: 91
Goals Against: 39
Top 3 Scorers:
- Ethan Marsh – 11G 13A 24P
- Dillon Boucher – 10G 12A 22P
- Justin Doiron – 10G 9A 19P
NATIONAL MIDGET CHAMPIONSHIP HISTORY
2011 – Halifax Titans | fifth place | 1-2-2 | 15GF 23GA
1994 – Halifax McDonald’s | fifth place | 2-3-0 | 24GF 25GA
1983 – Halifax McDonald’s | eighth place | 2-4-0 | 13GF 37GA
1980 – Halifax McDonald’s | fourth place | 3-3-0 | 15GF 17GA
PLAYERS TO WATCH
power forward … soft hands … good puck control … good puck protection … quick stick … nose for the net … strong skater … good balance … nice touch around the net … uses size well
solid two-way defenceman … excellent hockey IQ … very good offensive instincts … mobile skater … quarterbacks the PP … plays in all situations … good anticipation … reads the play well
great poise … doesn’t give up many second shots … good balance in stand-up and butterfly … makes good decisions … plays angles well … good overall positioning … recovers quickly
QMJHL DRAFTED PLAYERS
Dillon Boucher – Cape Breton 2013 (7th round, 111th overall)
Jordan Bezanson – Charlottetown 2013 (11th round, 194th overall)