Year of transition for P.E.I.’s two major midget teams
KENSINGTON – It’s safe to say it’s been a year of transition for Prince Edward Island’s two entries in the New Brunswick/P.E.I. Major Midget Hockey League.
The Eddie MacKenzie-skipped rink from the Charlottetown Curling Complex will represent Prince Edward Island at the Tim Hortons Brier. From left are skip Eddie MacKenzie, third Sean Ledgerwood, second Matthew Nabuurs and lead Robbie Doherty.
CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. – P.E.I.’s representatives at the Tim Hortons Brier face two challenges: one immediate and another one possibly looming.
Skip Eddie MacKenzie and his team of Sean Ledgerwood, Matt Nabuurs and Robbie (Doc) Doherty jumped through the first of three hoops by winning the P.E.I. Tankard last month.
The second stage in their Brier quest begins Thursday at 6 p.m. Atlantic when they play Nunavut in St. John’s, N.L. It is part of a four-team Brier qualifier.
“Only Robbie from our team has been through the qualification process, but he has prepped us that it will be a challenge,” said Ledgerwood.
The third said they know Nova Scotia, skipped by Jamie Murphy, better than the territories.
“Nunavut and Yukon will also be tough,” he said. “I played against Craig Kochan, skip of the Yukon team, at the Canadian juniors and against Nunavut’s skip Jim Nix in Nova Scotia many times.”
Kochan won three Northern Ontario junior titles, was a Canadian junior runner-up in 1988 and has won a Northern Ontario mixed title.
“I expect the relegation round to be similar to competing in another provincial tournament, with the hot team those two days getting through,” Ledgerwood said. “We will have a very good chance, as we have a proven Brier skip, who makes game-changing big shots with an uncanny regularity.”
Two years ago, Adam Casey won one of the biggest Brier games in P.E.I. history by defeating Yukon in the qualifying round. It ensured an unbroken series of P.E.I. Brier appearances that started in 1937.
“I think Eddie and his team will have it tough,” Casey said. “Nova Scotia has a good team, and Eddie's team has not played much this year. I saw them practising last weekend and Sean looked to be throwing great and he's got a calming presence. If they make it to the qualifying game, I expect Doc to be their vocal leader and, with his experience and Sean's calmness, I think they just might be able to steer Eddie to the promised land.”
Former Summerside resident Daryell Nowlan, who made it to the semifinal at the 1997 Brier, coached MacKenzie in the early 1990s.
“Eddie is a big shooter. If he's in the zone, he can hold his own with any of the skips out there,” he said. “Unfortunately this relegation system comes down to one game Saturday afternoon. P.E.I. has an excellent chance, but it's a bit of a roll of the dice on how things go when it comes down to one game.”
Summerside native Paul Power, who made it to the 1990 Brier final, said he likes MacKenzie’s chances to qualify.
“If he does, he will start round-robin play with the advantage of having played four games to start.”
Compiled by Blair Weeks
When they play
A look at Prince Edward Island’s games at the Tim Hortons Brier qualifier in St. John’s, N.L. All times Atantic.
6 p.m. – P.E.I. vs. Nunavut
7:30 a.m. – P.E.I. vs. Yukon.
3 p.m. – P.E.I. vs. Nova Scotia.
8:30 a.m. – Tie-breaker, if needed.
2:30 p.m. – Final. Top two teams play for the one remaining spot in the Brier.