All season long the Western Red Wings were the class of the Island Junior Hockey League.
The playoffs were no different.
The Red Wings overcame 2-0 and 3-2 deficits en route to doubling arch-rival Kensington Vipers 8-4 on Sunday afternoon to win the best-of-seven final series 4-1.
“It’s a very big day for our organization,” said head coach Nathan DesRoches, who has guided the Red Wings to three straight provincial titles. “To do this at home is pretty exciting.”
The series-clinching win came before a big crowd at the Evangeline Recreation Centre. It was also the first time the Red Wings were able to hoist the championship trophy on home ice after winning the 2017 and 2018 crowns on the road.
“They had great depth, they had a great series, they played well and deserved to win the series,” assessed Vipers head coach Wade Waddell. “I look at our team right now two of our top six (forwards) are out.
“I don’t want to use that as an excuse, but it certainly didn’t help us any missing Logan (Vandervelden) and CJ (McCardle) for the whole series.”
Red Wings forward Alex Morrissey, who scored a hat trick in Sunday’s Game 5, was named the playoff most valuable player.
“I’m a little surprised,” said Morrissey on his selection for the award. “I had a good playoff and I couldn’t be happier.”
Morrissey, who is from Tignish, finished with 16 points in eight games, one point behind teammate Chasse Gallant in the playoff scoring race. Morrissey netted a league-high 10 post-season goals.
“Alex is a tremendous player,” said DesRoches. “He seems to get overlooked a lot of times.
“We have a very talented group, but he took a big step this year. He added a little strength and speed. He is the league’s top goal-scorer (with 29 in the regular season) and then he does it again in the playoffs. He’s dangerous every shift. He’s a tremendous hockey player and a really good kid for us.”
Morrissey has been a part of all three Red Wings’ championships.
“Everybody is all good friends and we play as a team,” added Morrissey.
The season, however, will continue for both teams later this month. The Vipers are the host team for the 2019 Don Johnson Memorial Cup Atlantic junior B hockey championship tournament in Kensington from April 23 to 28 and the Red Wings will be the P.E.I. representative.
“I thought we would get worn down physically from Kensington, but I think it was really the opposite,” said DesRoches. “We did an excellent job of matching them physically, our forecheck was tenacious all series long and I thought we did a really good job at wearing them down.
“Going into the Don Johnson Cup we are relatively healthy right now.”
When asked if he could put one trademark on the Red Wings, DesRoches immediately responded speed.
“We have a lot of the fastest players in the league and when you talk about forechecking, being hard on pucks, hard work ethic, that all comes to mind with this group,” he continued.
After running away with the regular-season title on the strength of a 30-4-2 (won-lost-overtime losses) record, the Red Wings have an overall record of 38-4-3.
“It’s been a very successful year,” said DesRoches. “To be able to have an 8-1 playoff run was really special.
“Kudos to the guys, it seemed like every time as a coaching staff we challenged them, they responded every single time. I’m very, very proud of each and every one of them. They all came to play.”