At Community Gardens in Kensington
KENSINGTON – One of P.E.I.’s most intense hockey rivalries will be renewed on Sunday.
The Kensington Moase Plumbing and Heating Vipers will host the Abram-Village-based Arsenault’s Fish Mart Western Red Wings in Game 1 of the best-of-seven semifinal series in the Island Junior Hockey League. The opening faceoff at Community Gardens is set for 7 p.m.
“It’s a good matchup for both teams and the league,” said Vipers head coach Wade Waddell. “It’s the third year in a row we have met up with each other (with the Vipers sweeping the Red Wings in the league final the last two years).
“They (Red Wings) have some bodies back now, and they are a team that scares me. They have (Jeremy) Balderston, who in my opinion is the best player in the league, and (goaltender Chris) Gallant always plays us tough. I expect a long, hard-fought series.”
Balderston recorded 73 points, including 35 goals, in leading the Red Wings in regular-season scoring.
The Vipers, who have won four straight provincial championships, finished the regular season in first place at 25-5-0-2 (won-lost-overtime losses-shootout losses), and the Red Wings were fourth at 12-18-0-2.
The Red Wings, who at times this season struggled to ice a full roster, advanced to the semifinals by sweeping the fifth-place Holland College Hurricanes in a best-of-five quarter-final series.
The good news for the Red Wings is all of their players are now home from out west.
“We will have a full roster for Kensington,” confirmed Red Wings head coach Greg Rivard, who noted defenceman Tayler Smith will sit out the first two games with a suspension. “With a full lineup, I think it’s an even series.”
The series opener will mark the Vipers’ first game since their regular-season finale on Feb. 23. That’s 20 full days off between games.
“To tell you the truth I’m not happy about it,” said Waddell. “It’s too long of a layoff.”
Both head coaches were asked about keys for their respective teams?
Rivard: “The key for us is to stay disciplined and really play the system I have tried to instill in the team over the past few months. When I say discipline, it’s not only staying out of the penalty box, but staying true to the systems we are trying to get them to play. If they play to their capability, I think the world is their oyster.”
Waddell: “Our best players have to be our best players. We are a very deep team, and if we do have an advantage it may be our depth. In a series like this, hopefully we can roll our four lines and wear them down. . . You have to have good goaltending if you are going to win.”
Waddell confirmed that Grant Grady, who backstopped the Vipers to the Don Johnson Cup Atlantic junior B hockey championship last spring, will get the call between the pipes in Game 1.