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Colten Ellis has had nothing short of an outstanding career in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League — and it’s not over yet.
The River Denys product has played four full seasons in the QMJHL between the Rimouski Oceanic and Charlottetown Islanders and hasn’t disappointed those franchises.
For the second time this season, the 20-year-old goaltender has a chance to tie a QMJHL record — this time for most shutouts in a career.
Ellis currently has 16 shutouts and if he can blank the Cape Breton Eagles Saturday at Centre 200, he’ll tie Philippe Cadorette, who posted 17 shutouts during his time with the Baie-Comeau Drakkar and Shawinigan Cataractes.
Earlier this month, Ellis tied a QMJHL record for most consecutive wins to start a season (12) and earlier he set a Charlottetown Islanders franchise record for consecutive wins (8), a record previously held by Matthew Welsh (7).
Nobody should be surprised with Ellis’ success between the pipes. This is a guy who backstopped the Cape Breton West Islanders to a Telus Cup national under-18 major championship in 2017.
Oddly enough, Ellis was a fourth-round draft pick of the Eagles in 2016. With plenty of assets in the crease, Cape Breton elected to trade Ellis and keep Kyle Jessiman and Kevin Mandolese.
In return for Ellis, the Eagles received a first-round draft pick, which was later flipped to the Acadie-Bathurst Titan to acquire Sydney’s Mitchell Balmas in June 2018.
At the time, Ellis’ value was sky-high and former head coach and general manager Marc-Andre Dumont believed Jessiman and Mandolese would lead the Eagles to the Promised Land and wanted to give Ellis an opportunity to play full time.
In hindsight, Jessiman should have been the goaltender traded, but at the time when a club offers you a first-round pick for a goaltender that had only played two games in the QMJHL, it’s hard to pass it up.
In the end, it all worked out for Ellis. The only thing left is for the St. Louis Blues, who drafted him in the third round in 2019, to give him an entry-level contract and a chance to play professional hockey one day.
FIRST UNIVERSITY GOAL
Turning to university hockey, a Cape Breton hockey player scored her first goal in the Atlantic University Sport.
Erin Denny of Eskasoni netted her first goal as a member of the Saint Mary’s Huskies on Feb. 19 in a 2-0 win over the Dalhousie Tigers in exhibition play.
Although the AUS cancelled winter sports for 2020-21, with the Nova Scotia government easing restrictions earlier this month, Acadia, Dalhousie and Saint Mary’s have been permitted to play a five-week exhibition schedule in hockey, basketball, volleyball and swimming.
Denny, who committed to the Huskies’ program in May, played last season with the MacIntyre Chevy Panthers of the Nova Scotia Under-18 Female Hockey League, posting 12 goals and 28 points in 21 games.
At Saint Mary’s, Denny is reunited with Panthers teammate Aimee O’Neill of Glace Bay, who had three goals and 10 points in 27 games during her rookie campaign with the Huskies in 2019-20.
Denny’s goal will be the first of many in the Huskies uniform and that's a promise.
Sticking with university hockey recruits, Molly Baxendale of Dalem Lake was awarded the Maritime Major Female Under-18 Hockey League’s AAA Munroe Scholarship for the 2019-20 season.
Scholarship details were not available.
Baxendale played last season with the MacIntyre Chevy Panthers and was third in team scoring, finishing with eight goals and 14 points in 20 games.
The five-foot-three forward began her hockey career with the Northside and District Minor Hockey Association, before transferring to the Cape Breton female under-15 ‘AA’ program and later joining the Panthers.
Baxendale was recruited by the Mount Allison Mounties women’s hockey program last spring and was expected to make her AUS debut this season, prior to the cancellation of the AUS winter season.
TUNNICLIFF IN CAPE BRETON
In local high school basketball headlines, the Riverview Ravens boys varsity team received a major boost to the lineup.
Coby Tunnicliff, 17, returned to Cape Breton after starting the season with Rothesay Netherwood School in New Brunswick.
The six-foot-one, 160-pound point guard rejoined the Riverview program in January after the prep school season was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Rothesay team travels to different tournaments across Canada and the United States and its players are seen by university coaches and scouts. Obviously, with the pandemic and travel restrictions, the program stalled and that led Tunnicliff to return home and back to Riverview.
Tunnicliff’s presence has been felt in the Ravens lineup.
On Wednesday, the Sydney River product dropped a game-high 44 points in a 93-76 win over Breton Education Centre at the Riverview High School gym.
The Post has learned other players from the Rothesay team also did not return to New Brunswick after the Christmas break and rejoined their public school basketball programs.
It was the news student-athletes didn’t want to hear.
Earlier this week, the Nova Scotia School Athletic Federation cancelled all winter sport provincial championships due to the COVID-19 pandemic and inter-regional play restrictions.
The sports affected by the Monday announcement were basketball, curling, hockey, skiing, snowboarding and wrestling.
Regional championships will continue as scheduled.
The final dates for regional competition are March 6 for wrestling, March 8 for snowboarding, March 10 for skiing, March 27 for curling, April 1 for hockey and April 17 for basketball.
It’s too bad the NSSAF has been forced to cancel provincial championships for the winter, but at the end of the day public health is more important than anything else — however, it’s unfortunate for senior players who are in their final year.
Let’s hope winter provincials return for 2022.
JOHNSON, MACMULLEN MOVE
The Kameron Jr. Miners and Strait Pirates were recently active on the trade front in the Nova Scotia Junior Hockey League.
The Jr. Miners acquired defenceman Jason Johnson from the Pirates in exchange for forward William Fitzsimmins and the Miners’ waiver pick, which can be used unlimited times, and the Miners’ waiver pick for 2021-22.
Meanwhile, the Pirates acquired goaltender Michael MacMullen — the Cape Breton High School Hockey League top goaltender for 2019-20 — in a deal with the Antigonish AA Munro Bulldogs.
Few details have been made available on the MacMullen deal. In fact, the league hasn’t even announced the trade, but MacMullen has already played a game with the Port Hawkesbury-based Pirates.
MacMullen joins former Cape Breton Eagle draft pick Joshua Leudy as the Pirates goaltending tandem.
ENDURO A SUCCESS
If you happened to drive past Sydney Speedway last weekend and noticed cars in the parking lot and the sound of motors revving, your eyes and ears weren’t playing tricks on you.
The Sydney-Glace Bay Highway facility held its first annual Winter Blast Enduro races on Sunday and according to organizers, the event was a success.
Close to 50 vehicles were registered, which clearly shows there is interest in year-round racing.
Organizers will have a second event next month. March Break Madness Frozen Enduro is slated for March 13. The time has not yet been confirmed.
Kudos to Sydney Speedway and event organizers for trying something different. There’s no doubt it was a big hit with the participants and fans who attended last weekend.
We must end this week’s column on a sad note following two deaths in the Cape Breton sports community.
Raylene Morykot, 47, died earlier this week after an 18-month battle with cancer.
She was a volunteer coach in recent years with Volleyball Cape Breton and Centre Scolaire Étoile de L'Acadie in Sydney, where she won the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional Centre for Education league championship and was a regional runner-up recently.
“Raylene helped out whenever she could even when she was battling cancer and in between treatments,” Volleyball Cape Breton said in a Facebook post Sunday.
Meanwhile, Emmett George O’Callaghan, a 2010 Cape Breton Sports Hall of Fame inductee, died last Saturday.
O’Callaghan played organized hockey for 50 years and won the scoring race with the Sydney Jr. Millionaires in 1950-51. He later played with the Northside Combines in the Cape Breton Senior Hockey League. He also suited up for St. Joseph's School in 1945 and wrapped up his career with the Sydney Millionaires Oldtimers in 1997.
O’Callaghan’s sporting life also included curling, bowling, softball and coaching minor hockey.
My thoughts are with both the Morykot and O’Callaghan families during this difficult time.
Here are this week’s Cape Breton high school sports championship anniversaries. Watch for more in next week’s edition:
10th Anniversary (2011):
• Riverview High School cheerleading provincial championship
• Cape Breton Highlands Academy girls intermediate table tennis provincial championship
• Riverview High School girls Division 1 soccer provincial championship
• Riverview High School girls junior varsity soccer provincial championship
• Strait Area Education Recreation Centre girls Division 3 volleyball provincial championship
• Glace Bay High School girls Division 2 hockey provincial championship
5th Anniversary (2016):
• Riverview High School cheerleading provincial championship
Have a note of interest you would like to see appear in this weekly column? Send it to Jeremy at [email protected] along with a name and phone number for contact purposes.
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