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Sports Scene: The Mount Thom matchup

The Pictou County Crushers will travel over Mount Thom tonight to take on the Truro Bearcats in an important Maritime Junior Hockey League game.

Cameron MacLeod, a speedy, two-way winger with the Truro Bearcats, is looking forward to the Pictou County Weeks Crushers coming to town tonight.

There’s an exciting history between these two teams, one from Pictou County and the other from Colchester County. The Mount Thom matchup has provided some powerful, entertaining hockey over the years, both during regular season play as well as in the playoffs. Archrivals, the Bearcats and Crushers always give the fans their money’s worth.

Adding to the excitement is a very tight Eastlink Division race. The Valley Wildcats hold down first place but are tied with Pictou County in points at 41. Truro sits three points back in third spot. The top two positions are very much up for grabs.

To get a player’s perspective, we talked to Cameron MacLeod, a fast-skating rookie left winger with the Bearcats. MacLeod, who plays on a line centred by Jimmy Soper with Justin Doiron on the right side, was both calm and enthusiastic as we discussed tonight’s game.

“We’ll try to work hard and focus on playing our game. It’s always a lot of fun playing Pictou County,” MacLeod, 18, of Dartmouth, said. Fans go back and forth between the two counties, adding to the excitement. “When we go to New Glasgow, a number of our fans make the trip and sit beside our bench. It’s the same for the Crushers when they play in Truro. They have their own following.”

MacLeod likes how the Bearcats have performed of late.

“We’re really beginning to click as a group. We’re gelling well together and looking to get better every game. It’s important to pick up two points every night. I love playing in Truro; this is the best place to play in the league. Shawn Evans and the coaches run a good program and the fans in the area are very friendly and give us great support.”

The five-foot-nine, 170-pound forward is a 2015 graduate of Dartmouth High School. A former elite soccer player, MacLeod played for Dartmouth United up until age 14. While in Truro he is taking business courses at the Nova Scotia Community College. Noticeably a dedicated athlete, MacLeod takes off-ice training seriously.

“I go to the gym to work out every day except game day. Jamie Barbour, a Bearcats assistant coach, has drawn up workout plans tailored for forwards and defencemen. They are a great help for having us ready for scheduled games. These workouts are good for conditioning, movement and flexibility and help prevent injuries.”

MacLeod comes to the Bearcats after playing major midget the past two seasons with Newbridge Gladiators under general manager-coach Steve Crowell. The Gladiators were both Nova Scotia and Atlantic Canada major midget champions in 2014-2015.

“Cameron MacLeod was an exceptional young man to coach,” Crowell recalled. “Cameron was always prepared and ready to play every game. He played strong every night – he worked hard whenever he was on the ice. Cameron is was very strong defensively, he‘s a very good two-way hockey player.”

The opening face-off tonight at the Rath Eastlink Community Centre takes place at 7 p.m.

Crowell a major midget fixture

I believe it was Steve Crowell who once said, “Be kind to animals – hug a Bearcat.”

Crowell, who has lived in Valley near Truro since the summer of 1997, was the general manager-coach of Truro Bearcats during their inaugural Maritime Junior Hockey League season, 1997-1998. Following four seasons as GM and coach, Crowell stepped back to be the general manager for the Bearcats’ fifth season.

Building an outstanding record in major midget hockey, Crowell has coached teams to an amazing eight Nova Scotia titles and six Atlantic Canada Championships. Last season was another milestone year for Crowell as his Newbridge Gladiators went on to compete in the TELUS Cup.

Crowell is in his familiar duel-role position with Dartmouth Steele Subaru Major Midgets this season. Dartmouth, with three Truro-area players, Ryan Porter, Matt Crowell and Luke MacMillan, were recent winners of the Ice Jam tournament. They are in second place in the Nova Scotia Major Midget Hockey League, trailing only Cole Harbour.

Crowell is also the head scout for the Bearcats junior A team.

Note: Lyle Carter’s sports column appears Saturdays in the Truro Daily News. If you have a story idea, contact him at 902 673-2857.

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