It was truly a real Canadian hockey scene – one that would have made a nice photo.
Fundy Thunder players entered the Colchester Legion Stadium recently for a supper-hour practice. Most carried hockey bags, some had sticks. The expressions on their faces told the story – these young players were keen to hit the ice.
The Thunder, playing out of the stadium, are the newest entry in the eight-team Nova Scotia Minor Midget AAA Hockey League. Local sportsman Jeff Oderkirk has taken on the sponsorship of the first-year club and his wife Brandi is the director of operations.
“Our own kids have been involved in minor hockey for about 12 years,” Brandi said. “We thought that giving young players an opportunity to play in this league was a good idea, it focuses on the development of players around 15 years of age. These players will be able to develop their skills while importantly playing with kids their own age.”
Brandi, Jeff and the team’s coach, Tim Macumber, approached Hockey Nova Scotia with a plan for an eighth team to play out of centrally-located Truro.
“We will play our home games at the stadium Saturday nights at 7.30, we have 13 players from the Truro area, we also have players from Pictou County and Cumberland County.”
The Thunder opened the season with a 4-3 home ice win over Valley Wildcats. Two losses followed and then came a 4-0 road-victory Sunday over Sackville, evening the team’s record at 2-2.
“The game was scoreless until halfway through the second period,” 15-year-old defenceman Jake Bolger said. “We took a 1-0 lead and it stayed that way until the third period. We broke the game open with two goals, we scored our last goal into an empty net. Ashton Cutten was in goal for the shutout.”
Bolger, who has also seen action this season with Pictou County Weeks Major Midgets, played last year with the Truro Bearcats in AA bantam. In 2016-17, he played major bantam Bearcats.
“I’ve been playing hockey pretty well my whole life, I’ve made a lot of friends and I really enjoy the competitiveness of playing in big games. I plan to stay in hockey, I want to play the top calibre that I can.”
Jake Stewart is also a 15-year-old defenceman and played the past two seasons with the AA bantam Bearcats.
“I’m finding this league to be faster,” Stewart said. “There’s lots of skill on every team, I find the teams all have good depth. I’m enjoying playing in this league a lot, we have a great group of guys and we get along really well together. With our team spirit – we’ll do okay.”
Besides hockey, Stewart plays soccer for Cobequid Educational Centre.
Kyran Burton, a centre/left-winger, played the past two seasons with the Bearcats in
AA bantam. Also a 15-year-old – like Stewart and Bolger – Burton is a Grade 10 student at CEC.
“The level of hockey in AAA minor midget is much more competitive,” Burton told me. “This is a good opportunity to get better for future years, the players are much bigger this year and I find the speed quite a bit more intense. We have a lot of good leaders on our team, the coaching is magnificent, we are being pushed to get better. I feel already -- that we are improving our play.”
Macumber has enjoyed a great sports background. An outstanding pitcher and first-baseman in fastpitch ball, he has played for two Canadian senior champions, and also starred in one ISC world championship win. In 2010, Macumber played for Team Canada when they won the Pan Am Games.
A former Nova Scotia Senior Hockey League player with Bridgewater, Macumber has coached minor hockey for several seasons.
“With this being a first-year franchise, we didn’t know what to expect,” Macumber said. “We had a great turnout for our first tryout and it’s gone from there. We have a lot of quality kids, this is a great league for them to develop in. The league is really centred around getting 15- and 16 year-old players ready for the next level of hockey.”
Macumber’s assistant coaches are Allan Porter, who coached several of the Thunder players in AA bantam, Mark Simms and Kevin Dunlevy.
Lyle Carter’s sports column appears weekly in the Truro News. If you have a story idea, contact him at 902-673-2857.