Eastern Express ready for Atlantic championship after winning Island title


Published on April 5, 2017

The Eastern Express is the Prince Edward Island major bantam hockey champion. The team will represent the province at the Atlantics this week in Cornwall. Team members, front row, from left, are Carter Champion, Cole Larkin, assistant coach Cody McPhee, assistant coach Morgan Rice, Riley MacDougall, head coach Will Zafiris, assistant coach Taylor Runighan, Reid Peardon, Isaac Wilson and Caleb Drake. Second row, Alexander Dixon, Lucas Parsons, Luke Garnhum, Jacob MacPhee, Jesse McGrath, Seth MacLeod, Sam MacNeill, Jack Triantafillou, William Proud, Gabe Hartlen, Cole McKeigan, Dylan Blackett and Jack Campbell.

©Submitted

CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. – Cole Larkin is looking forward to playing the best bantam-aged hockey teams in Atlantic Canada starting Thursday in Cornwall. 

“It’s going to be tough, but I’m ready for the challenge and I think our team is ready, too,” the 14-year-old Stratford native said before Monday’s practice.

The Express defeated the Prince County Warriors 4-2 on March 22 to win the best-of-five provincial championship 3-1 and punch their ticket to the five-team Atlantic Major Bantam AAA Hockey Championship.

“We’ll try to carry (the momentum) over,” said Sam MacNeill, a 15-year-old right-winger from Stratford. “It’s pretty exciting. I’ve never got to play (at Atlantics).”

He said it is a special group and they want to have a strong end to the season.

Blue-liner William Proud said the team is looking forward to the opportunity it has earned. The 15-year-old Stratford native said the keys to success would be similar to what got them to this point.

“We’re going to have to be tight in our defensive zone and then bury our chances when we get the puck in the offensive zone,” he said. “There’s lots of great teams here, so we just have to bear down whenever we get the chances.”

Head coach Will Zafiris said the players are excited to play at the Atlantics, noting it is the culmination of a lot of hard work that started in early September.

The goal is simple.

“It’s to play in that final game on Sunday,” Zafiris said. “We’ve played well against these teams that we’ve seen so far this year, and I think we’ve got an opportunity that we can make some noise and get to that championship game.”

The Express, he said, is a fast team that moves the puck well and has forward depth. It received strong goaltending all year from Carter Champion and Caleb Drake with Drake expected to get the start the opener with Fredericton on Thursday.

“We’re playing all the provincial champions and a very tough Mid-Isle team, so it is going to be tough competition, but we like the team we have together,” Zafiris said.

 

Atlantic Major Bantam AAA Hockey Championship

What – A five-team hockey tournament showcasing the best bantam hockey teams in Atlantic Canada.

Where – APM Centre in Cornwall.

Who – Fredericton Blues (New Brunswick), Eastern Express (P.E.I.), Mid-Isle Matrix (host), ACA Rangers (Sackville/East Hants, Nova Scotia) and Tricom Thunder (Mount Pearl, Newfoundland and Labrador).

Thursday’s schedule

1 p.m. – Eastern vs. Fredericton.

4 p.m. – ACA vs. Tricom.

7:30 p.m. – Opening ceremonies.

8 p.m. – Fredericton vs. Mid-Isle.

 

Top scorers

Regular season point leaders for the Eastern Express.

                                    GP      G         A       Pts.

Isaac Wilson              28       24       20       44

Lucas Parsons           30       17       25        42

Riley MacDougall     30       19       21       40

Reid Peardon            28       22       14       36

Sam MacNeill           29       12       24       36