TRURO, N.S. – Play was fast, end-to-end and exciting Tuesday night at Colchester Legion Stadium as the CEC Cougars defeated the North Nova Gryphons 4-1 in Northern Nova Scotia High School Hockey League play.
DeGroot fired two goals for the Cougars, Brody Schmitt and Joseph Fagioli added singles. In goal for the winners, Steven Jackson made several key saves.
Bright and early Wednesday morning, the Cougars held a lively 7 a.m. practice at the stadium. Following the workout it was good to talk to outstanding defenceman and team captain Luke Smith.
“I thought we played pretty well last night,” Smith, 17, of Great Village, said. “We controlled the early play but it remained a tight game right up until we broke it open in the third period. This is a pretty nice team we have, I’d like to think we have a good shot this year.”
Smith, a third-year player and a Grade 12 student, is a high-scoring defenceman with nine goals and 15 assists. A strong skater, he handles the puck with authority, has a powerful shot and sees the ice extremely well.
The humble and polite athlete commented on one of the highlights of the season.
“We were able to win the Auburn Classic Hockey Tournament in Cole Harbour just before Christmas; it was really exciting. We ended up defeating the host team Auburn High in the final 2-1; the game was decided in overtime.”
The winning goal in that tournament came off the stick of Connor Miller. Smith had fired the first goal.
Aside from playing with the Cougars, Smith is an assistant coach to Mike Spencer with Brookfield Elks a bantam A team.
“I work mostly with the defence – I’m really enjoying helping out. I like being around hockey as much as I can. We have a great coaching staff and a really good group of kids.”
Smith, who also played in the outfield for three seasons with the Cougars baseball team, plans to study engineering following graduation from high school. As I thanked the all-around athlete, he reminded me that Thursday night, Feb. 15 the Cougars will host the Hants East Tigers at 6.30 p.m. at the Stadium in an important fundraiser.
“All proceeds will go to the ‘We Care About Cancer’ fund,” he said. “It would be nice if we could get a good turnout.”
Miller, a third-year forward, leads the Cougars in scoring with 21 goals and 17 assists.
With a strong hockey background, Miller played first in the West Colchester Minor Hockey Association. He later played atom AAA and peewee AAA for the Truro Bearcats. He also played major bantam for the Bearcats.
Playing the game like he has a magnet on his stick, Miller has a number of dazzling moves he uses against the opposition.
“I kind of followed hockey players I grew up around,” Miller, 17, of Lower Debert, told me. “My father (Terry Miller) also had an input in how I play. I try to give 100 per cent when I’m on the ice, I want to put in a good shift.”
Miller, also a Grade 12 student who plans to attend trade school, spoke about his teammates.
“This is a good group of guys. I really enjoy playing with the Cougars, we’re a spirited team and everyone works hard to play at the top of their game. This will give us a chance when we get into the playoffs.”
Jeff Hazelton is in his 10th year coaching the Cougars. It is also year 10 for assistant coach Vince MacCormack. The other assistant coaches are Andre Robichaud and Tom Whidden. The manager is Jennifer Ferguson.
“Luke Smith is among the top high school defenceman in the province,” Hazelton said. “Luke works hard, he’s a natural leader, it’s easy for the young players to follow his lead. Luke has the ability to control the tempo of the game when he’s on the ice.
“Connor Miller is an assistant captain, he’s one of the best high school forwards in the province. Connor is a skilled forward, he plays the game hard in both ends of the rink. Connor plays every shift at a high intensity. Luke and
Connor are both excellent young men, they are part of a really good leadership group we have on our hockey team.”
Lyle Carter’s sports column appears Saturdays in the Truro Daily News. If you have a story idea, contact him at 902 673-2857.