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Buzzer Beater: Welcome to the jungle


BROOKFIELD – Brady Meech laughs and shrugs his shoulders, glancing to the side for a moment as if looking for an answer somewhere in space over my shoulder.

Brady Meech is off to a lightning start this season with the Brookfield Elks of the Nova Scotia Junior Hockey League. Meech, an 18-year-old rookie, has eight goals through six games – good for third in the league. The Elks face the East Hants Penguins on Tuesday night at home.

The question – “Did you see this coming?” – is really an impossible one. On one hand, nobody could predict an eight-goal season in high school hockey would relay into nine goals through his first seven games of junior B. On the other hand, if he actually could foresee his red-hot start, it would be something less than modest to admit it.

After a brief pause, the Brookfield Elks rookie scoring sensation comes up with his answer.

“Not like this.”

While the Elks have gotten off to a murky start with two wins and four losses, Meech has been electric. The 18-year-old is third in league goal scoring and tops among rookies. The only other first-year forward near him is Randon MacKinnon of the Strait Pirates, who spent the last three seasons as a top scorer with Cape Breton West of the major midget league.

Meech, meanwhile, didn’t exactly have a high profile minor hockey career. It’s likely nobody aside from the Elks had him on their radar as he finished his Grade 12 year at Cobequid Educational Centre.

After two years with the Truro Bearcats major bantam team, Meech played one year with the Weeks Midgets of the Nova Scotia Major Midget Hockey League. The next two years, however, he was cut from the team. He turned instead to the next best option – high school hockey.

After graduation, he headed for Halifax to attend Saint Mary’s this September. The Elks coaches, Patrick Stewart and James Rutherford, contacted Meech and convinced him to try out.

 “I knew he had good numbers in high school,” Stewart said. “But when he first came to the tryout, his shot was –“

“It’s a pro shot,” Rutherford cut in excitedly. “He has as good a shot as you’re going to see in most levels.”

The jump from high school to junior hockey isn’t an easy one. Sure, CEC played a fast game with plenty of hitting on the fore check last season, but the talent level is more on part with midget-double. The next step is more often junior C, or nothing at all.

“I noticed right off the start it’s a bit quicker and the guys are a bit bigger and you have to be aware of that,” he said. “Other than that, you just have to play your game and focus on that.”

Meech is playing on a line with former Cougars teammates Brady Davis and the Elks’ prodigal son, James Shapleigh. After starring for Brookfield in his first two years, Shapleigh left for the Liverpool Privateers and spent last season with the East Hants Penguins. This year, the Truro native is back and performing up to his old standards in his final junior season. Without Shapleigh, it’s likely Meech doesn’t get near as many chances to use his big league shot.

“We have good chemistry and (we’re) moving the puck well,” Meech said. “He’s a vet in this league and he always knows where I am and when I want the puck… It works out perfectly.”

Despite their 3-4-0-0 record, the youthful Elks have the potential to be a dangerous team down the line. Even if they aren’t in playoff contention come Games 25-34, they’ll be the young spoiler nobody wants to face.

The team believes they will be contenders, however, once they figure each other out.

“It’s a great team and we’re playing really well right now,” Meech said. “We just need to fine tune some things and we’ll be rolling soon.”

 

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