Teams meet at Gardens in this year's matinee
KENSINGTON – A Prince Edward Island hockey tradition will continue on Thursday.
© Jason Simmonds/Journal Pioneer
Brett Hogan, white jersey, of the Kensington Moase Plumbing and Heating Vipers and Jeremy Balderston of the Arsenault’s Fish Mart Western Red Wings take a faceoff during last year’s league championship series.
The Kensington Moase Plumbing and Heating Vipers will host the Arsenault’s Fish Mart Western Red Wings from Abram-Village in the annual Boxing Day matinee between the two Island Junior Hockey League teams at Community Gardens. The puck will drop at 2 p.m.
“Years ago it was an annual thing for the (Summerside Western) Capitals and (Charlottetown) Abbies to play on Boxing Day,” explained Vipers head coach Wade Waddell. “It’s something (Vipers owner) Pat (McIver) decided to do after the Abbies were no longer. It’s an attractive day for a lot of people.
“With Wellington being our most fierce rival, ever since they were in Summerside even 15 years ago, they were the most attractive opponent.”
The Red Wings and Vipers rotate hosting the game each year.
“Last year, it was up in Abram-Village and they had a nice crowd (at the Evangeline Recreation Centre). Usually, excluding playoffs, this is probably the crowd we look most forward to along with the Bedford (peewee exchange), and we always have a nice crowd that week too.
“We are hoping for 500 or 600 fans. It’s always a nice competitive game when we play the Red Wings.”
Make no mistake about it, it’s a big game for both teams. The Vipers sit atop the Island Junior Hockey League standings at 15-3-0 (won-lost-overtime/shootout losses). Kensington, which has a game-in-hand, is only three points up on the surging Montague Maniacs (13-5-1), who have earned 15 of a possible 18 points in their last nine games.
“Are we content right now?,” asked Waddell. “Probably not.
“Montague has made some strides, they have added some players. It’s still a work in progress for us. We are 15-3 and like where we’re at, but we are nowhere near content.”
The fourth-place Red Wings (7-10-1), meanwhile, are looking to extend their lead over the last-place Holland College Hurricanes (4-12-2) while eying the third-place Sherwood Falcons (7-8-4). Sherwood is three points ahead of the Red Wings.
“They (Red Wings) have won three of their last five and have made some strides,” said Waddell. “Every time we play them they have all been close games, and two of them one-goal games.
“Years ago it was an annual thing for the (Summerside Western) Capitals and (Charlottetown) Abbies to play on Boxing Day. It’s something (Vipers owner) Pat (McIver) decided to do after the Abbies were no longer. It’s an attractive day for a lot of people. With Wellington (Red Wings) being our most fierce rival, ever since they were in Summerside even 15 years ago, they were the most attractive opponent.” Vipers head coach and former Western Capital Wade Waddell
“They have, in my opinion, probably the best player in the league in (Jeremy) Balderston, and they have solid goaltending. They’ve had their ups and downs, but for whatever reason they always seem to get up to play us.”
Kensington Vipers-Western Red Wings’ game notes:
The Island Junior Hockey League-leading Vipers are 15-3-0 (won-lost-overtime/shootout losses) while the fourth-place Red Wings are 7-10-1.
This will mark the fourth regular-season meeting between the two arch-rivals. The Vipers won the first three meetings – 5-4 in Kensington on Oct. 20, 8-5 in Abram-Village on Nov. 2 and 6-5 in Kensington on Nov. 17.
The Vipers’ Jordan Mayhew and Red Wings’ Jeremy Balderston are second and third in league scoring, respectively. Mayhew has 21 goals and 24 assists for 45 points, and Balderston has 22 goals and 20 helpers for 42 points. Matt Myers of Montague leads the scoring race with 46 points – 12 goals and 34 assists.
The Vipers have announced Grant Grady will get the call in goal.
Aaron Nunn, who is attending university out of province, will take the place of the suspended Morgan Walker on the Vipers’ blue-line.
The Red Wings are coming off a 7-3 loss in Montague on Friday night.
The Vipers, who have been hit hard by postponements due to the weather, will be playing only their third game of December on Boxing Day. They routed the Sherwood Falcons 8-1 on Dec. 1, and lost 6-4 in Montague on Dec. 13.
The Vipers are 8-1 at home this season while the Red Wings are 4-7 on the road.
The Vipers and Red Wings have met in the league championship series the past two seasons. The Vipers have swept both series.