Alec Campbell has only one thing on his mind heading into the Panther Classic this weekend.
And that's winning the tournament.
The graduating defenceman had his first taste of the Panther Classic high school hockey tournament last year, but unfortunately, the host Glace Bay Panthers didn’t make it to the final.
“I try not to think about that part, but focus more on winning the title (this year),” said Campbell of his final Panther Classic. “We know the feeling of winning a tournament and we hope it’s even better if we can win our own.”
Last month, the Panthers, who currently sit second in the Cape Breton High School Hockey League with a 4-2-2-0 record, captured the Memorial-hosted Mae Kibyuk Memorial Green and Gold Hockey Tournament title.
In the championship game, the Panthers edged longtime rival, Riverview Redmen, 4-3 in overtime to claim the Green and Gold championship, revenge for the Redmen eliminating Glace Bay in the Panther Classic semifinal last December.
“We know what it takes to win a tournament championship,” said the 17-year-old defenceman. “We’re going to have to bring that same effort that we brought in the Green and Gold and if we do we should have a good shot at winning.”
This year’s edition of the Panther Classic will kick off on Thursday with all four local teams hitting the ice at the Canada Games Complex on the Cape Breton University campus.
Along with the host Panthers, the four-day tournament will feature local representatives Riverview, Sydney Academy Wildcats and Memorial Marauders.
Meanwhile, the Dr. J.H. Gillis Royals of Antigonish, North Nova Gryphons of New Glasgow, Cobequid Educational Centre Cougars (CEC) of Truro, and Auburn Drive Eagles of Cole Harbour will also compete in the tournament.
Panthers head coach Dwayne Doucet said among the visiting teams, Glace Bay is familiar with CEC and Auburn Drive after playing them earlier this season.
“CEC beat us 3-2 and that game could have gone either way, while the Auburn Drive game was back-and-forth, but they ended up getting the better of us,” said Doucet.
“We haven’t seen Dr. J.H. Gillis or North Nova this season, but we’re certainly going to be watching them this weekend and will know them by the end of the tournament.”
Glace Bay last won the Panther Classic in 2017, defeating the Redmen 2-1 in overtime to capture the title.
The Panthers will begin the quest Thursday for their second Panther Classic title in three years when they face Sydney Academy. Game time is 8 p.m.
“It’s extremely important to win the first game because you want to be able to control your own destiny throughout the tournament,” said Campbell, who serves as the Panthers' captain.
“We’re expecting lots of support from our fans and we know how important the tournament is to the Glace Bay community, so it should be a good weekend.”
Glace Bay is icing a fairly young team this year, however, the club lost only seven players from last year’s group, with the majority returning to the Panthers' lineup this season.
“The players are young but have the experience of playing in the tournament last year, so hopefully that experience will show this weekend,” said Doucet, who won the Panther Classic in his first year as the team’s head coach.
“I think they will remember the feeling they had when they won the Green and Gold — we want them to bring that intensity and drive every single game.”
Along with playing Sydney Academy, the Panthers will also face CEC on Friday at 6 p.m., before wrapping up the round robin on Saturday with a game against the Royals at 12 p.m.
During Thursday's game, the Panthers will wear special pink jerseys to honour the memory of four-year-old Jaycee Tracey, who died suddenly after contracting meningococcal septicemia in early May.
“Our motto all season has been positivity, so whenever you can take a horrible situation like that and turn it into something great, it's a good thing,” said Campbell.
The semifinals are slated for Saturday at 6 p.m. and 8 p.m., while the championship game will be held Sunday at 1 p.m.
2019 Panther Classic High School Hockey Tournament
Canada Games Complex, Sydney
Division 1 – Glace Bay Panthers, Sydney Academy Wildcats, Dr. J.H. Gillis Royals and Cobequid Educational Centre Cougars (CEC)
Division 2 – Riverview Redmen, Memorial Marauders, Auburn Drive Eagles and North Nova Gryphons
- 6 p.m. – Riverview vs. Memorial
- 8 p.m. – Glace Bay vs. Sydney Academy
- 10 a.m. – CEC vs. J.H. Gillis
- 12 p.m. – Memorial vs. Auburn Drive
- 2 p.m. – Sydney Academy vs. J.H. Gillis
- 4 p.m. – Auburn Drive vs. North Nova
- 6 p.m. – Glace Bay vs. CEC
- 8 p.m. – Riverview vs. North Nova
- 8 a.m. – Sydney Academy vs. CEC
- 10 a.m. – Memorial vs. North Nova
- 12 p.m. – Glace Bay vs. J.H. Gillis
- 2 p.m. – Riverview vs. Auburn
- 6 p.m. – First place in Division 1 vs. Second place in Division 2
- 8 p.m. – First place in Division 2 vs. Second place in Division 1
- 1 p.m. – Championship game