ABRAM-VILLAGE – The Arsenault’s Fish Mart Western Red Wings have a chance to widen the gap.
The Kensington Moase Plumbing and Heating Vipers have an opportunity to move closer. Thus, a home-and-home series between the two Island Junior Hockey League rivals has taken on added importance.
The teams meet in their annual Boxing Day game in Abram-Village on Tuesday at 2 p.m., followed by a return match in Kensington on Friday, Dec. 29, at 7:30 p.m.
“A lot of people have been talking about both games, and that they are excited to come watch,” said Red Wings head coach Nathan DesRoches. “It’s the holiday season, people will be around and I’m sure both games will draw big crowds.”
The Red Wings currently sit atop the four-team Island Junior Hockey League at 10-5-2 (won-lost-overtime losses).
“I’ve been happy really with how we responded to a tough start,” said DesRoches. “We never pressed the panic button, we knew we had a good team and it took some guys a little time to jell, and (captain) Chasse (Gallant) was hurt for the first part of the season, and it was nice to get him back.
“For us, it was just a matter of time before we came together as a group.”
DesRoches noted the Wings have had some blowouts, comeback wins and closed out some tight games during a winning streak they are looking to extend to nine games.
“The different ways of winning is what has impressed me the most during this eight-game winning stretch,” acknowledged DesRoches. “I like the way the guys have responded, and they haven’t taken their foot off the gas pedal. We are getting contributions from everybody, which is a big thing.”
Going into Friday’s game between Kensington and the Eastern Maniacs in Souris, only five points separated the Red Wings and third-place Vipers.
“For us we are just trying to get two points, and approach these games as we have been against every other team,” said DesRoches. “My message going into it is we need a win, and regardless if the Boxing Day game gets a little more extra attention or not, we just have to do our job.”
The second-place Sherwood-Parkdale A&S Scrap Metal Metros are also in the hunt for top spot at 10-7-1, just one point back of the Red Wings and four in front of the Vipers.
“In our league there are a little bit fewer games than other leagues, and it’s so tight this year,” said DesRoches. “This is the tightest the league has been (in a long time), and every game counts.”
Western Red Wings’ team leaders:
Points: Jason Gallant, 26.
Goals: Jason Gallant, 16.
Assists: Isaac Knox, 14.
Power-play goals: Jason Gallant and Cole Hackett, tied with 3.
Short-handed goals: Jason Gallant, 3.
Penalty minutes: Abel Arsenault, 70.
Goaltending: Bronson Banks, 8-5-0, 3.49 goals-against average, .891 save percentage.