The Kensington Monaghan Farms Wild’s quest to win an Atlantic championship starts Thursday in New Glasgow, N.S.
The team plans to leave tonight for the Atlantic Major Midget Hockey Championship.
The Wild, then known as the Cornwall Superior Thunder, made it to the championship game a year ago in Moncton, before losing to the Valley Wildcats from Nova Scotia.
“It makes them that much hungrier to get back to the final this year,” coach Mark Carragher said on Tuesday. “We hope to take that next step and win it.”
The team has eight players back from last year’s squad. They are goalie Bradley Shea, defencemen Parker Ronahan and Bailey Webster as well as forwards Abel Arsenault, Spencer Sherren, Max Morrison, Cole Hackett and Dillon Wall.
“With the good run we had last year it’s nice to have those guys back to kind of lean on a little bit,” Carragher said. “I think that’s a big advantage going into this weekend.”
Arsenault said the team turned a lot of heads last year and is looking for another strong showing this week.
“We are ready for this tournament, I know we are,” the captain said. “I have a lot of confidence in my team.”
The key for them, he said, was to play as a team and play hard.
The Wild, which started the season 2-8, will need contributions from everybody to be successful this week, but a few of its key players are blue-liners Ronahan and Bailey (who played seven games with the Saint John Sea Dogs this season), leading scorer and playoff MVP Sam Jay, second leading scorer Hackett and Arsenault.
The team will be without its starting goalie, Cameron Visser, who broke his arm in a snowmobile accident two days after the provincial final.
The Wild turns to Shea and call-up Alex Smith from the Mid-Isle Matrix minor midget squad.
The Wild has not played since beating Charlottetown in Game 6 of the provincial final on March 12 and practices have been tough to arrange during the past week’s weather.
Kensington will have to hit the ice rolling as it plays twice on opening day. It meets Nova Scotia champions from Halifax in the tournament’s first game at 1 p.m. before meeting the host squad at 8 p.m.
“That first day is really important,” Carragher said. “If you can get off to a good start you can kind ride some momentum.”
Arsenault, a 17-year-old centre from Abrams Village, said the competition looks tight again this year.
“I think at the end of the day, it’s anyone’s game,” he said, adding the team has to remained focus even when things don’t go its way. “You’re going to have ups and downs, but you have to just keep going and working hard.”
The Wild beat Pictou County in the Monctonian tournament, tied and lost 2-1 to Halifax and won two of six games with Saint John this season. It has not played Newfoundland and Labrador’s Central IcePak.
Carragher said the Wild would need to play a physical, hard-nosed style, make good decisions and get solid goaltending.
“I think if we stick to our game plan we’ll have some success.”
The winner advances to the national Telus Cup tournament in Moose Jaw, Sask., April 21 to 27.
Nova Scotia – Halifax McDonald’s.
New Brunswick – Saint John Vitos.
Newfoundland and Labrador – Central IcePak.
Host – Pictou County Weeks.
1 p.m. – Halifax vs. Kensington.
4 p.m. – Central vs. Saint John.
7:30 p.m. – Opening ceremonies.
8 p.m. – Kensington vs. Pictou County.
10 a.m. – Saint John vs. Halifax.
1:30 p.m. – Pictou County vs. Central.
5 p.m. – Saint John vs. Kensington.
8 p.m. – Halifax vs. Pictou County.
9 a.m. – Kensington vs. Central.
12:30 p.m. – Pictou County vs. Saint John.
3:30 p.m. – Central vs. Halifax.
7:30 p.m. – Awards banquet.
1 p.m. – Gold medal game.