The Valley Maple Leafs Junior B hockey team, which will play its games in Wolfville, Kentville and Berwick, saw its first-ever Nova Scotia Junior Hockey League action Friday evening at the Kings Mutual Century Centre.
The Maple Leafs, featuring a number of Hants County and Valley-area players, got their season off to a positive start with a 3-2 victory over the Glace Bay Miners.
The Leafs took a 1-0 lead in the game's first minute, with Delhaven native and former NKEC Titan David Hayes having the distinction of scoring the new team's first-ever goal.
The Maple Leafs, who led 2-1 after one period and 3-1 after 40 minutes, also got goals from Brandon Parker (Brooklyn, Hants County) and Colin Gillis (Middleton) in front of 300 spectators.
Mitchell Culley (Newmarket, ON) earned the win in goal.
David Hunter, co-general manager of the Valley squad, was still floating on air Saturday after the team’s big win.
“The texts, phone calls, I’ve gotten — everybody knows about the win. Everybody.”
Going into the game, he said, the team’s executive wasn’t sure what to expect as far as attendance was concerned. They knew they had a good team, Hunter said, but the big question was whether the support would be there from the Valley residents, especially since Kentville and Berwick hadn’t had their own Junior B team before.
“I was talking to Bobby Best before the game, and he said, ‘look at the people’. I looked out and I was just amazed. He said he saw people there (Friday) night that he hadn’t seen in there since the rink opened,” Hunter said.
And the crowd seemed to enjoy the play, he added.
“When Glace Bay got that second goal on Mitchell, you could hear the groan come up from everyone,” Hunter said. “I don’t know what happened there — it was just five seconds left and everybody dove for it, but it just kind of flipped up over.”
The players were also enthusiastic to be on the newly-formed team.
“The guys were just so excited, just so happy to be back on the ice,” Hunter said. “When they got their new gloves, they were just like kids at Christmas.”
Many of the players were on the Windsor Royals squad last year, and many have Valley connections.
“There’s a lot of talent here in the Valley and we deserve to have Junior B,” Hunter added. “They were just grinning from ear to ear after last night’s game, they were just so happy to play and get their win.”
Maintaining their momentum will now be Valley’s challenge. The team will have their first game in Kentville tonight, Sept. 23, facing off against the Pictou Scotians.
Next weekend, they’ll be on the road, with games against the Port Hawkesbury Pirates on Friday and a rematch against Glace Bay on Saturday.