MIDDLETON - Boys high school hockey is back in Middelton, and judging from the crowd at the Middleton Arena Saturday night for the MRHS Monarch’s home opener, hometown fans are hot for hockey.
The Middleton Regional High School squad took on the Digby Regional High School Mariners in a back-and-forth battle Oct. 21 that had the Monarchs leading after the first period, the game tied halfway through the second, and the Mariners ahead by one going into the third. Digby notched a pair in the final frame to win 8-5.
The loss put the Monarchs at 0-2 in the early season, but the young team proved to hometown fans it’s a contender in the Valley High School Hockey League with speed and puck-handling ability that manager Albert Johnson said will only improve as the season continues.
Monarch Taylor Veinot’s natural hat trick in the second period may be a sign of things to come. And Nick Hazelwood notched one and assisted on two of Veinot’s markers to hint at a potent combination in the future.
And the fans?
“That was probably the biggest crowd I’ve seen over there in some time,” Johnson said. “I remember the years way back 20 years ago when I coached them every game was like that.”
Digby’s Noah Titus put an end to 14 scoreless minutes in the first period when he deeked Middleton netminder Caleb Fraser at 13: 55 into the game. Oakley Rhoddy replied for Middleton with 2:13 to go on a play set up by Owin Beaton. Hazelwood from Ray Parsons put the puck past Fred Robinson to put the Monarchs up 2-1 at the end of the period.
The Middleton lead disappeared at 1:02 of the second as Braden Trimper tied it up. Veinot scored his first of three at 7:41 from Hazelwood to put the Monarchs up 3-2 but Myles Titus scored for Digby at 8:13 followed almost immediately by another from Trimper to put Digby ahead by one. Parson set Veinot up at 9:29 to tie it 4-4 but Owen Titus scored with 5:58 to go. That put Digby ahead with Lance Thibodeau notching another with 3:42 to go and the Mariners up 6-4. Veinot collected his third with 29 seconds left with Hazelwood and Parsons assisting.
Middleton fought through the third, but couldn’t get the puck by Robinson in the final frame. Thibodeau scored one early in the period for Digby and teammate Graham Cromwell clinched it with 12:16 to go and an 8-5 win for the Mariners.
The MRHS Monarchs collected 38 penalty minutes while the Mariners sat in the box for 28. Ironically, both teams managed to score short-handed.
“I thought there was a lot of pretty good work on both sides,” said Johnson. “Both teams moved the puck around well. It was certainly improvement over the week before.”
In their season opener, Middleton lost 14-0 to powerhouse Horton.
Middleton didn’t ice a team last year and this year’s squad has a handful of Grade 9s on the bench who Johnson says will only improve by experience. He noted two of the club’s top forwards were unable to make the home opener, but he expects them back for an Oct. 28 match against Central Kings in Middleton. They have another away game Nov. 3 in Kingston against West Kings.
The Monarchs have only had one practice in the Middleton Arena so far, thanks to humidity problems and problems with the rink’s Olympia ice cleaner. But those problems seemed to have been solved Oct. 21. The MRHS players have been practicing in Kingston and even Greenwood under head coach Jim Johnson.
Albert Johnson said other teams have probably been getting in twice as much ice time.
He said Monarchs games are worth the admission. “It’s the greatest thing in town as far as I’m concerned.”