Matrix up for the challenge

Eric McCarthy
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ALBERTON -- Attending the Atlantic Midget AAA Hockey Championship is nothing new for the Mid-Isle Matrix, but for 11 graduating team members the Atlantic championship this weekend in Alberton will be their last opportunity to do so.

The Matrix, provincial and Atlantic champions in 2011 and 2012, are attending the 2014 championship at the Jacques Cartier Arena as the P.E.I. representative. They lost a close five-game provincial championship series to the Western Regals Midgets last week, but since the Regals are entered as host team, the Matrix are in as Team P.E.I.

Head coach Mike Lord thinks the Matrix will hold their own in the five-team tournament. He knows the two Island teams match up really well with the Bedford, Nova Scotia and Saint John, NB teams. He hasn’t seen the St. John’s Newfoundland team in action.

“I think the four teams will be pretty competitive,” Lord assessed. “Bedford, when we played them, they kind of sit back a little bit and capitalized on our mistakes. Saint John, they pretty well fit in with everybody else, pretty strong offensively and they skate well. They should fit in pretty good.”

Island teams have won the Atlantic tournament the last five years.

As for the Matrix, Lord said they have solid goaltending, a big, solid defensive unit and they rotate four forward lines.

“We’re big and physical,” Lord said.

“We keep the center of the ice plugged up pretty good. Even on the penalty kill, we let them take the outside. We keep the middle jammed up as much as we can,” he said in describing the Matrix defensive style, but added, “We try to spend most of the time in the offensive zone, forechecking.”

Lord and his assistant coach, Andrew Cameron, have been running the Matrix bench for five years. Assistant coach Rodney MacFadyen was captain the first year Lord and Cameron coached, and they coached Dylan Sanderson, now a trainer and assistant coach with the team, for three years. Scott Stewart is the team manager.

With Alex Smith and Sean MacPhee providing the team with stingy goaltending, Lord said the scoring attack is led by Cody Miller and his wingers Brady Vandervelden and Jacob Stewart and by the line of Brennan Jarvis, Drew Grady and James Murphy. The other forward lines, he said provide a lot of energy and physical play for the Matrix.

Lord is unconcerned with having to play four tournament games in three days, having done it during their previous Atlantic tournaments. They also played three games in three days against the Regals in the finals. “We play four lines anyway, so there’s not too much of an adjustment for us. It’s not too often we shorten the bench. We pretty well play everybody. That’s why we’ve had any success.”

Lord expects the Matrix to play in the Atlantics pretty well the same as they did all season. “I don’t think we really need to be different; we just need a little bit of puck luck,” he said.

 

When they play (weather permitting).

The Matrix open against the Bedford, NS Blues at 1 p.m. Thursday. Then at 8 p.m., following opening ceremonies, they face the host Regals for a twelfth time this year. They tackle the Saint John Warriors Friday at 4 p.m. and St. John’s Marshals on Saturday at 9 a.m.

Geographic location: Saint John, Iceland, Nova Scotia Newfoundland

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