Junior Pens to go for NSJHL title

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LANTZ: The East Hants Junior Penguins have punched their ticket to the NSJHL final—and possibly the Don Johnson Cup. But they want to do more than just walk in the back door, they want to win their way to the Atlantic Canadian Junior B championship.

With the Glace Bay Kameron Jr Miners hosting the Don Johnson Cup in Membertou, and a stranglehold on their series with Antigonish heading into Game four on March 20, the Pens series victory over Cole Harbour becomes much more important.

East Hants Penguin Lucio Williams breaks in towards the Cole Harbour net during game five of the two teams NSJHL Fred Fox division final on March 18 at the East Hants Sportspelx in Lantz. East Hants won the game 9-5. (Healey photo)

In the regular season the Colts took the season series from East Hants 3-1. However, the Pens showed determination in getting their revenge when the real season began, defeating them in five games 4-1 before a crowd of an estimated 250 people at the East Hants Sportsplex in Lantz on March 18.

Mark Vokey, who scored a hat trick, said the two teams battled all year long.

“We knew coming in we were going to have a tough series with them,” said Vokey, who also had an assist. “It’s good to end it on home ice.”

Cole Harbour was without their two main goalies for the season—Jon Prall and Kirklin Allen, both who suffered injuries. The Colts had to rely on Wolfpack call-ups Joe Chambers and Griffin Kelly. Despite the result of the series, both stood tall to keep their team in the game considering the age and experience difference.

Pens head coach Laurie Isenor was pleased with his team’s effort, adding the Colts provided great opposition for his troops.

“They’re a good team, they dominated us all season in the regular season,” said Isenor. “They had our number. This series, the boys were determined to go out and get it and they played hard.

Isenor said two things were key to the Pens taking the series. One of those was goalie Ryan Huestis, of Wellington, who turned away 37 of 42 shots he faced.

Jesse Hamer of the Penguins (#9) wires home one of his two goals past Colts goalie Griffin Kelly who tried his best to get across the ice to make the save. (Healey photo)

“The line of Matt and Adam Peruzza and Quinn MacDonald took over the series on offence,” he said. “Ryan Huestis has made some huge saves for us in this series.”

East Hants captain Alex Anthony said the team just needs to remain focused, and not look at the berth into the final as an automatic ticket to the DoJo.

“I think it’s good for the community,” said the Shubenacadie product. “It’s been awhile sine we’ve had a Junior B team this good. I think it’s great to see the good crowds we have behind us supporting us all.

“It definitely helps us when we have the loud crowd behind us.”

He said they have a lot of firepower.

“I think if we stick to our game plan then we’re going to be a hard team to beat,” he said.

Anthony agreed with his coach on how key Huestis’ play has been.

“Huestis is back there kicking for us,” said Anthony. “We wouldn’t want anyone else back there other than him. He’s definitely been solid for us. We’re glad to have him.”

East Hants goalie Ryan Huestis gets a breather late in the third period, smiling to some friends in the crowd of an estimated 250 at the East Hants Sportsplex in Lantz. The Pens won the Fred Fox division final 9-5 over Cole Harbour. (Healey photo)

Isenor said they don’t want to go in the back door to the Don Johnson Cup.

“We want to go in through the front door and win the league to get there,” said Isenor.

Also scoring for the Pens were Jesse Hamer and Adam Peruzza with two each; while singles came from Quinn MacDonald and Kyle Randall. Assists were supplied by Hamer and MacDonald with three each; while two helpers apiece came from the sticks of Dylan Evans; Alex Anthony; and Lucio Williams.

Single helpers were credited to affiliate Matt Duggan and Matt Peruzza.

The Fred Fox Division banner is presented to the captains and assistant captains of the East Hants Penguins after their 9-5 series and final clinching win on March 18 in Lantz. (Healey photo)