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Major midget tournament begins today in Hub City
It’s a new year and a new team but the same goal for the Kensington Monaghan Farms Wild.
The Island squad enters this week’s Monctonian Challenge major midget hockey tournament after winning the event in 2018. They open play today at 12:15 p.m. against Rothesay Netherwood School.
“It feels pretty special to go back in as defending champs,” said Landon Clow, a 17-year-old forward from Kensington. “This year is a lot different – you’re playing to defend your title, not just playing to win it.”
The Monctonian, known as one of the first big events of the major midget hockey calendar, has attracted 28 teams, mostly from Atlantic Canada, but with a few squads from Quebec, Ontario and Saskatchewan.
“The Monctonian is always a big tournament, the first real test to see (how) you compare against all the other teams in the Atlantic provinces and a bit of Quebec,” said captain Will Proud, a 17-year-old defenceman from Stratford. “We’re really excited and looking forward to having a really good weekend and going far in the tournament.”
The tournament sees teams play a game a day early, but the tournament ramps up as the preliminary round winds down and the playoffs begin. Last year, the Wild played seven games, including five on Saturday and Sunday.
Head coach Kyle Dunn said it is important for the players to take care of their bodies while the coaching staff will need to roll six defencemen and four lines.
“It is a long tournament,” he said. “You’re riding emotion, you’re riding excitement and again it comes down to nutrition and rest.”
Proud said he and his teammates have to take care of business early in the tournament to earn its ticket to the elimination round. It earned a wildcard entry into the playoffs in 2018.
“We just have to get everyone to buy in and we should be fine, just stick to our game and get out of the division and anything can happen – just like last year,” he said.
Dunn said there’s no pressure on them to defend, given the amount of turnover the Wild, and other major midget teams, go through from year to year.
“I think we’re just going into it as a great measuring stick to see where you’re at early on in the year,” he said.
The Wild has about a half a dozen players back from last year’s squad.
“Our rookies from last year have really stepped up this year,” Clow said. “And the new guys, coming up from bantam or (who) are new to the team, have really put their foot forward and made a big impact so far on the team.”
Kensington (9-4-2-0) is second in the New Brunswick/Prince Edward Island Major Midget Hockey League, 10 points back of first-place Moncton. It lost a game late in regulation to Moncton and another in a shootout but came back to defeat Saint John after trailing heading to the third period.
“We’ve had some highs and lows, we’ve given some points away and we’ve also stole some points,” Dunn said. “It’s good to go through those growing pains early. We have a process to where we want to be at the end of the year.”
While the Monctonian is a great chance for teams to see where they are at, it is not the season’s end goal each squad is building towards. Dunn noted the Halifax McDonalds didn’t make it out of their division at the Monctonian and went on to win the Atlantic championship at MacLauchlan Arena by defeating the Wild.
“They just kept getting better and better all year,” Dunn said.
The Charlottetown Bulk Carriers Knights open play today at noon against the Western Kings from Newfoundland and Labrador.
The Knights are 5-9-2-0 this season with only one player returning from last year’s squad. They have lost the last four regular season games.
Simon Hughes, Max Chisholm and Colby Huggan lead the team with 19, 13 and 11 points respectively. They do have a few players who won the Monctonian as part of the Central Attack bantam squad a year ago.
The Sherwood Drug Mart Central Attack is the only Island squad taking part in the eight-team division.
A look at the Island’s major midget teams’ schedule for the Monctonian Challenge.
Kensington Monaghan Farms Wild
12:15 p.m. – Kensington vs. Rothesay Netherwood School (N.B.).
3:30 p.m. – Kensington vs. Tri Pen Osprey (N.L.).
8:45 a.m. – Kensington vs. Cape Breton West Islanders (N.S.).
7:30 p.m. – Kensington vs. Contendo Northern Moose (N.B.).
The Charlottetown Bulk Carriers Knights
Noon – Knights vs. Western Kings (N.L.).
10:30 a.m. – Knights vs. Ontario Hockey Academy Gold (Ont.).
12:30 p.m. – Knights vs. Pictou County Weeks (N.S.).
7:30 p.m. – Knights vs. Sydney Mitsubishi Rush (N.S.).
Sherwood Drug Mart Central Attack
1:45 p.m. – Attack vs. Cape Breton Jets (N.S.)
9 p.m. – Attack vs. Admirals Hockey Club (N.S.)
3:30 p.m. – Attack vs. Basin Armada (N.S.)