BROOKFIELD - The Brookfield Elks have some high hopes hung on this year's Nova Scotia Junior Hockey League postseason.
After finishing the regular season second in the Fred Fox Division, just one point behind the Sackville Blazers (20-12-2-0), the Elks (19-12-1-2) feel anything less than a league title and trip the Don Johnson Cup Atlantic championship next month in Moncton would be unacceptable.
"I don't think there's any team in this league that can beat us in a seven-game series if all our lines and our goaltending plays the way it can," said Elks forward Jordan Lauther, who finished third on the team with 26 points (8G, 18A) in 30 games. "If we don't end up going to the DoJo, I think the team would be disappointed."
The Elks open their bid to achieve those goals tonight as they host the Bay Ducks (19-13-2-0), who finished third in the Fox, in Game 1 of their best-of-seven divisional semifinal at 7:30 p.m. at Don Henderson Memorial Sportsplex.
It's been an up-and-down season for the Elks, who started the campaign 1-5 before hitting their stride. General manager Joel Dawe pulled the trigger on a trade in November which brought veteran forwards Geoff Burke, Liam Carr and Devon Muir in from the Cumberland Blues.
In spite of guiding the team to a 12-9-1-1 record, coach Kevin Harvey was sent packing by Dawe in mid-January and replaced with Brookfield coaching legend Hughie Matheson.
The Elks flipped-flopped with the Blazers for the division lead through the final few weeks of the season and floundered to a 1-4 record in their final five games.
In spite of that, Lauther, a 20-year-old Truro resident, said the Elks are a confident bunch entering tonight's contest.
The team has one of the most talented goaltenders in the league in Bible Hill's Spencer Scott between the pipes. But Lauther said Brookfield has gotten itself into trouble when it leans too heavily on its netminder.
"He's the best goalie in the league, but sometimes we think he's going to make this incredible save on every play and we can't do that. We've got to be better in our own end."
Especially against a team like the Ducks, who don't stop competing until the final whistle blows.
"We've got to be first to the puck," Lauther said.