TRURO, N.S. – Following a Truro Bearcats optional practice Tuesday afternoon at the Rath Eastlink Community Centre, it was good to go one-on-one with Bearcats rookie defenceman Curtis Heffernan.
Like many other people, Heffernan finds the tight race for positions in the Maritime Junior Hockey League’s Eastlink North Division rather amazing.
“It’s a real close division, that’s for sure,” Heffernan, 18, of St. Johns, NL., said. “All the teams are battling for one position or another. This is the closet league and the closet race I’ve ever had experience with.”
As we checked out the standings together, Yarmouth sat in first place with 49 points; a second-place tie between South Shore and Amherst found both teams with 48 points each. Then, in the battle for the fourth and last division playoff spot, the Bearcats had 33 points, Pictou County had 32 and Valley had 28.
Heffernan agreed, it’s practically a story book situation.
“We’re concentrating on our own play,” said Heffernan. “We’re trying to stay as positive as we can. We don’t want our highs to get too high or our lows to get too low. We’re a good group at lifting each other up, we encourage each other. As a team, we’re feeling confident as we go forward, we’re right in the battle and
I feel we are going to come through.”
The exciting prospect is coming off a big year in 2016-17, his second season with St. John’s Maple Leafs in Newfoundland Midget AAA hockey. A professional-style type of player, Heffernan led all playoff scorers, he was named playoff MVP and the Maple Leafs captured the Newfoundland championship.
Heffernan received an invite to the Halifax Mooseheads training camp. The third-round Bearcats draft pick arrived in Truro in late August.
Heffernan, who turned 18 on Dec. 23, talked about his introduction to hockey.
“I guess I began playing at a pretty young age, I would have been three or four. My dad coached hockey and I had two older brothers, Justin and Taylor, who both played. I kind of followed in their footsteps.”
We talked briefly about the NHL and Heffernan smiled as he named his favourite team.
“My favourite NHL team has always been Ottawa Senators. This came about because my aunt, Susan Sparks, had always been a Senator’s fan, that’s how I first got interested. Of course, after making a real good run last season, Ottawa is not enjoying the season they’d like. I’m still hopeful that they can put it together.”
Important points are on the line this week as the Bearcats try to retain fourth place. Friday night they visited the South Shore Lumberjacks and Sunday afternoon Heffernan and teammates go into Amherst to face the Ramblers. The Bearcats next home game is at the RECC Friday, Feb. 2 when the Miramichi Timberwolves are the visitors.
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Joining the Brookfield Elks Nov. 6, right-winger Jagger Statton has played in 20 games, firing six goals and recording seven assists.
Statton played last season in U18 midget AAA hockey with Ontario Hockey Academy, a prep school in Cornwall.
“Since joining the Elks I’m finding that this Nova Scotia Junior Hockey League is a very good brand of junior B hockey,” Statton, 18, a native of Bridgewater, said. “I believe there are a lot of players around the league who could play a higher caliber hockey. I rate this a good hockey league.”
Statton spoke about his club’s recent 6-4 win over Cumberland County Blues in Springhill.
“It’s always nice to win; we have been playing better hockey of late. The confidence level is up, we hope to keep gaining confidence. The team has been working hard so it was nice to be rewarded. I feel that since coming back from the Christmas break the morale has been real good. We’re close knit in the locker room, there’s good spirit and we’re all pulling for each other.”
A first-year student at Saint Francis Xavier University, Statton is taking a bachelor of science in human kinetics. He played his early hockey in the South Shore Minor Hockey Association and arrived in Brookfield via a trade with Pictou County Scotians.
On the road Wednesday night, the Elks lost 3-1 to Sackville Blazers. In a 5-4 loss to Liverpool Privateers Thursday night at the Sportsplex, Statton had one assist.
Lyle Carter’s sports column appears Saturdays in the Truro Daily News. If you have a story idea, contact him at 902 673-2857