WINDSOR, N.S. — The Valley Maple Leafs made the Nova Scotia Junior Hockey League playoffs, but just barely.
They’re now taking on the first-place East Hants Penguins in the first round of the Fred Fox Division playoffs.
The Leafs are set to play the first two games in the series Feb. 16 at 7:30 p.m. in East Hants and Feb. 18 at 2:30 p.m. in Windsor. Games three and four are slated for Feb. 21 in East Hants at 8 p.m. and Feb. 23 at 7:30 p.m. in Windsor.
Last two games of season
The Leafs were hoping to secure third place in the league but it all came down to points — and the last two games were critical.
The Leafs and Liverpool Privateers were both guaranteed a playoff spot, with neither wanting to come in fourth as they would have to face the Penguins in the first round of playoffs.
The Leafs took on the Cole Harbour Colts on Feb. 9 in Windsor. Despite a solid battle, the Colts won 4-3.
“You could just feel the energy because everybody was working together. I think everybody contributed; it was just a matter of not taking stupid penalties and whatnot,” said Brett Fletcher, the Leafs’ head coach.
Ethan Rendell-Watson started the scoring off in the second period, with the Colt’s Brett Armstrong tying it up less than four minutes later.
Nathan Clarke scored with 4:36 remaining in the second to give the Leafs a 2-1 lead entering the third.
The Colts’ Jeffrey Withers scored twice in a row, once on the power-play, to put them up 3-2. Will Drummond had been all around the Colts’ net during the second period and his persistence paid off as he tied the game with just under 11 minutes to go. The tie was short-lived as Jacob Tibert scored what would be the game winner about a minute later.
Fletcher said the game marked Drummond’s debut with the team, and his first Junior B goal.
“That game was a fun to watch. There was lots of action,” said Fletcher. “It wasn’t boring hockey. It was end-to-end, lots of hits, lots of saves, lots of action at both ends.”
When the Leafs travelled to Liverpool for their final game of the season, Feb. 10, a third-place finish was on the line. They put up a valiant effort but lost 6-4.
Liverpool and the Valley traded goals in the first period, with Connor Kirby scoring and then the Leafs’ Manuel Manero.
Colin MacQuarrie scored on the power-play to start the second period off before the Privateers swung into action and scored three successive power-play goals, all within a minute and a half. Scoring were Michael Anthony, Brandon Pottie and Kirby.
The Leafs’ Eli Hughes scored in the third before the Privateers tallied two more markers thanks to Stone Harnish and Pottie.
With 7:48 remaining, Isaac Bridge scored on the power-play to bring the game a little closer. However, Liverpool held the Valley squad off to win it 6-4. Liverpool is currently playing the second-place Colts in the playoffs.