Although they didn’t come away with the record they hoped for at nationals, the Pictou County Weeks Majors are looking back at a very successful hockey season.
Boasting a 27-6-2 record, good for first place in the Nova Scotia U-18 Major Hockey League, the Weeks Majors went 9-3 in the playoffs to take the league title and Nova Scotia crown, then defeated the Moncton Flyers 2-1 in overtime at the Atlantic Championships to earn their way to Saint-Hyacinthe, Que., for the Canada’s Men’s U-18 National Club Championship from April 24 to 30.
Despite their terrific year, the Weeks Majors went 1-4 at nationals, which the Blizzard du Séminaire Saint-François team from Quebec won.
“We didn’t reach our ultimate goal of winning a national championship, but at the same time, I think there were a lot of lessons and a lot of really positive experiences to come out of it,” said head coach Kyle MacLennan. “This was actually our first time winning a game at the tournament. Still, we didn’t get on the right side of a lot of games, but it was good to make a little bit of history.”
This was the first time his team competed in the national club championship since it played host in 1997, MacLennan noted.
“I thought the level of competition was extremely elite. Obviously, when you get to a national tournament, you don’t expect anything less than that,” he said. “For us, being a few small counties playing against some pretty big areas was an incredible experience, and very eye-opening to show the level of talent across the country.”
The top scorer for the Weeks Majors this year was league scoring champion Lane Lochead with 19 goals and 36 assists, good for 55 points. Selected 97th overall by the Cape Breton Eagles in the 2021 Quebec Major Junior Hockey League Entry Draft, Lochead added 30 points in the post-season.
Ben Wallace recorded 50 points with 25 goals and 25 assists, while Lane Sim had a 45-point regular season, netting 16 goals and 29 assists for the Weeks Majors this year.
Aiden Tucker was among the team’s top scorers in the playoffs, with six goals and 15 assists.
Goalie Colby Brown had 15 wins this year with a 2.31 goals against average and a save percentage of 0.921, while defenceman Owen Conrad had 32 points this year.
“Teams competed really hard and at the end of the day, I think the team that won the tournament, they competed extremely hard, they stuck to their plan very consistently throughout the tournament,” MacLennan said.
Although they had a great regular season and won each playoff series three games to one, MacLennan said it was not an easy year in the strong provincial U-18 league.
“One thing about our league, from top to bottom, it’s very challenging on any given night,” he said. “Two of our loses came against the seventh placed team and the eighth-place team. It just goes to show there’s such great talent across the league and such great programs, that on any given night, it’s a challenge and a battle.”
In the league playoffs, the Weeks Majors eliminated Sydney, then Halifax, and finally Cole Harbour.
“Sydney played us extremely hard and hats off to them especially the way they adjusted after Game 2. The way they pushed us around a little bit in Game 3 and even Game 4, it was no easy task to move on,” said MacLennan. “(Halifax) shows why they’re successful year after year. I think that was a really special and important moment for us.”
After going 3-1 in the preliminary round at the Atlantic regional tournament, the Weeks Majors faced the Moncton Flyers in the final, the only team to beat them in the preliminary round. The Majors dethroned the reigning national champions when Lochead scored at 16:34 of the extra frame.
Pointing to other players like Drew MacKinnon, Reese Smith and Clint MacLaughlin, MacLennan added that this team believed in each other, believed in their own abilities, held each other accountable and maintained high expectations throughout the season.
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