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Madison Corbett has a simple message for her Cape Breton Lynx teammates.
It’s just another game.
The young Lynx team will begin the Maritime Major Female Under-18 Hockey League playoffs with a best-of-five first-round series against the Station Six Fire of Halifax, this weekend in Bedford.
Despite the pressure of playing an older Station Fire club, Corbett said the Membertou-based team has to stick to the game plan and not get sidetracked.
“We have to go out there and work hard, follow our system and keep everything in line,” said the 17-year-old captain.
“I know there’s going to be some nerves, especially for the rookies, but we have to stay focused and not think of it as playoffs.”
Cape Breton (7-10-1-0) enters the playoffs in third place in the four-team Nova Scotia Division while Halifax (7-7-4-0) finished the regular season in second place, three points ahead of the Lynx.
The Fire found early success against Cape Breton in October and November, posting three wins and a tie. However, the Lynx won the last two meetings earlier this month with 2-1 and 5-2 scores.
Corbett believes the team will use the February contests as motivation heading into the series.
"They have a hard-working group and a lot of the girls have played together for years,” said the Lynx defenceman. “We’ve come together as a group ourselves and knowing we’ve beat them in the past gives us confidence. We’re excited to get things started.”
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the Nova Scotia-based teams were forced to miss more than two months of action before the schedule resumed at the end of January.
Unlike teams in the Halifax area, the Lynx were able to continue training and practising during the two-month break.
Since the restart, Cape Breton has won four of its last six games, the club’s only losses coming to the powerhouse Northern Subway Selects of Pictou County.
“Over the break, we stayed focused and we knew there would be games eventually, so we never took a day off,” said Corbett, who’s committed to the Saint Mary’s Huskies women’s hockey university program next season.
“We kept preparing for when we could play again and we kept going to the gym and training, so the break was quite beneficial for us as a team.”
Lynx head coach and owner Sonya Lynk credits the consistent development of her players and the addition of Samantha Morrison from the Ontario Hockey Association for the club’s second-half success.
“Samantha is quite the difference maker on the ice,” said Lynk. “She’s very talented and has brought her teammates game up and is a huge part of the 4-2 second-half record, but I think the girls have been getting better overall every day.”
Morrison appeared in six games with the Lynx since returning to Cape Breton, posting five goals and seven points.
Morrison won’t be available for the playoffs because of league rules which state a player must play at least 10 games to be eligible for the postseason.
Lynk said the team petitioned the league and Hockey Nova Scotia to allow Morrison to play in the playoffs, however, both stood by the original rules.
“We were aware of the outcome and knew what to expect somewhat,” she said. “We did have some hope she’d be allowed to play, but unfortunately that won’t be the case.”
Although she’d like to have Morrison in the lineup, Lynk said the team is looking past the situation and focusing on what they can control on the ice.
“If everyone on the team steps up and works hard, I think we can definitely be competitive,” she said. “Our defensive game has been our biggest asset and we’ve relied heavily on our defence both defensively and offensively.”
Corbett, a Sydney resident, leads the team in points with 11 goals and 17 points while Jessica MacLean (4 goals, 10 assists, 14 points) and Allison Gilfoy (3 goals, 10 assists, 13 points) round out the top three.
As for Halifax, the team is led offensively by Saint Mary’s recruit Jillian Duggan with 12 goals and 22 points. Sophie Pomeroy (7 goals, 5 assists, 12 points) and Brooke MacNeil (3 goals, 7 assists, 10 points) have also chipped in with offence.
Game 1 of the series will kick off on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. at BMO Centre in Bedford, while Game 2 is slated for Sunday at 12:15 p.m., also at the Bedford facility.
The series will shift to Cape Breton for Game 3 on Friday, March 5 at 6 p.m. at the Membertou Sport and Wellness Centre.
Game 4, if necessary, will be held March 6 at 10:30 a.m. in Membertou. A fifth and deciding game, if necessary, will be played March 7 in Halifax. The game time and location were not confirmed at press time.
BEST-OF-FIVE PLAYOFF SCHEDULE
• Game 1: Saturday, 3:30 p.m. – Cape Breton @ Halifax, BMO Centre, Bedford
• Game 2: Sunday, 12:15 p.m. – Cape Breton @ Halifax, BMO Centre, Bedford
• Game 3: March 5, 6 p.m. – Halifax @ Cape Breton, Membertou Sport and Wellness Centre
• Game 4: March 6, 10:30 a.m. – Halifax @ Cape Breton, Membertou Sport and Wellness Centre (If necessary)
• Game 5: March 7, TBA – Cape Breton @ Halifax, TBA (If necessary)
Jeremy Fraser is a sports and breaking news reporter for the Cape Breton Post. He's been with the publication for four years. Follow Jeremy on Twitter @CBPost_Jeremy.