Battle for first place in New Brunswick/P.E.I. Major Midget Hockey League continues Saturday night
KENSINGTON – It’s one of those games where not much has to be said.
The Kensington Monaghan Farms Wild will host the Moncton Flyers in another anticipated clash between the top two teams in the New Brunswick/P.E.I. Major Midget Hockey League on Saturday. Puck drop in Kensington is 7:30 p.m.
“Both are really good organizations and really good teams,” said Wild sophomore defenceman Will Proud of Stratford. “Every time we play each other, everyone brings the best out of each other, and everyone is trying to get the win for their team. That makes for a really good game every time.”
The Wild is 14-2-1 (won-lost-overtime losses), two points behind the league-leading Flyers (15-1-1). A Kensington road win over the third-place Saint John Vitos (10-6-1) on Friday night will set up a showdown for sole possession of first place versus Moncton.
“It’s just developed into such a good rivalry really over the last couple of years between Moncton and Kensington,” said Flyers head coach John DeCourcey. “Those games are a lot of fun for the players and everybody involved.”
It will be Flyers’ final visit to Kensington this season, and the teams will meet twice in Moncton after Christmas.
“They are really four-point games when you have two teams chasing first place,” said DeCourcey. “We have a long way to go, but it will probably come right down to the end of the year for sure.”
Previous head-to-head matchups this season illustrates the parity between the Wild and Flyers. Overall, the teams have met five times – four league games and in the quarter-finals of the Monctonian AAA Challenge tournament – and three of those contests have required overtime, including a 4-3 Wild win in Kensington on Nov. 24.
“It was a great back-and-forth game,” said Wild head coach Kyle Dunn in describing last week’s game between the Wild and Flyers. “It was a good matchup between two good hockey teams. The pressure was on at both ends, and it was an exciting game to be a part of.
“I’m sure it was exciting to watch as a fan.”
DeCourcey agrees the head-to-head games between the Flyers and Wild have been great commercials for major midget hockey.
“There is a lot of skill level on both sides, there is a lot of depth, there’s good goaltending on both teams and there’s been some real good hockey games the last few weeks with them,” he added.
The Wild and Flyers are also the league’s two hottest teams. Kensington has won nine straight league games and has 16 wins and one tie in its last 17 games, including an exhibition win over the Notre Dame Argos and a record of six wins and one tie en route to capturing the franchise’s first-ever Monctonian title on Nov. 18. The Flyers are 8-1-1 in their last 10 league games, with both losses coming against the Wild.
“We play Moncton well, and Moncton plays us well,” said Dunn. “It’s a good little competition we have going. It’s two good teams going at it, and it’s fun to be a part of.”
Proud and Dunn both stress the keys for the Wild are simple.
“We are really good at moving the puck down low, cycling, working it high to low and getting traffic to the net,” said Proud. “We want to get our feet moving, and make smart plays moving the puck out of our own zone getting it going down low.”
Proud notes the Flyers play “a really aggressive” style, which means the Wild cannot afford any letdowns.
“Especially when we are on the power play, their penalty kill is super aggressive, and we have to move the puck really quick,” explained Proud, 16. “Every time we are out on the ice, we have to be sharp with our passes, move it quickly and find open lanes.”
Offence vs. defence
An interesting matchup is the Wild’s offence versus the Flyers’ defence. Kensington scored a league-leading 107 goals entering Friday’s action while the Flyers have allowed a league-low 33 goals. Moncton is second in goals-for with 90, and Kensington is second in goals-against with 47.
“We talk a lot about the defensive side of the game, backchecking, defensive zone coverage, third guy high, picking up guys and once we get the puck we will go on the offence,” said Dunn. “But when we don’t have the puck, let’s work as hard as we can to get it back.”
Proud said a big part of the Wild’s impressive defensive numbers has been the play of goaltenders Chad Arsenault and Josh Smith, along with strong puck possession.
“Josh and Chad are really good at bailing us out anytime we need it,” said Proud. “We have the puck on our sticks a lot, so most of the time it’s teams chasing us rather than us chasing them. When that happens your defence is going to be good.”
Previous meetings between Wild, Flyers:
Flyers 5 at Wild 4 (OT).
Wild 1 at Flyers 4.
Wild 7 at Flyers 2.
Flyers 3 at Wild 4 (OT).
Monctonian AAA Challenge
Wild 4 Flyers 3 (OT).