Mustangs enter East Coast IceJam hockey tournament on a roll - Chronicle Herald

Mustangs enter East Coast IceJam hockey tournament on a roll - Chronicle Herald
South Shore Mustang's Mason Beck leads the Nova Scotia Major Midget Hockey League in scoring. Mustangs enter East Coast IceJam hockey tournament on a roll - George Myrer (

The South Mustangs are in first place in the Nova Scotia Major Midget Hockey League. No, that's not a misprint. The perennial cellar-dwellers are enjoying their best season in recent memory. The team has only had three winning seasons in the past 14.  Entering the final stages of the major midget schedule the Mustangs own a 20-6-5 record. Head coach Brogan Bailey isn't surprised his team is having success this year, just the magnitude of it. If you would have told me that we would be in first place at this point of the season I probably wouldn't have believed you, laughed Bailey, a former Mustangs player in his second year as head coach. In his first season, the Mustangs went 10-23-3 but Bailey thought the team played better than their record.

Last year was difficult because I thought we had a good team. We lost a lot of one-goal games, we kind of couldn't get over the hump and the guys that were returning knew that. But a couple of key additions and the coming of age of league scoring leader Mason Beck helped change the mindset.

This year with the additions of guys like Luke (Woodworth) and Riley Hurlbert and a couple of other city guys (Luke Baldwin, Konnor Daniels, Cutter Devine, Liam Ferguson and David Purdy), that has put us over the top. It's a whole lot of fun, the chemistry in the room is different and obviously winning helps all that, said Bailey. It makes coaching a lot easier.

Beck leads the scoring race with 66 points (17 goals and 49 assists) while Woodworth is close behind with 61 (18 goals and 43 assists). Lawson Cook has 20 goals and 15 assists as the third member of the top line. Obviously if you look at the scoring race we have Mason Beck, who is a really talented third-year forward, and we have Luke Woodworth, who is a very talented first-year player, so it's a good mix of old and young.  We obviously have very good goaltending with both of our goalies (Jeremy Robar and Konnor MacInnis). All those things help.
It didn't take long for Beck and Woodworth to develop chemistry when they combined for six points in a season-opening win over the Cole Harbour Wolfpack. Mason's a very talented kid, skates well, sees the ice well, passes well but I think he had trouble trusting the guys he played with in previous years, said Bailey. He tried to do too much by himself but this year it's hard not to trust Luke. He's an extremely good hockey player and Mason has developed a trust with him and they have both fed off it.

Special teams have also been a major part of the Mustangs' success this season. They have scored 39 goals on the power play and four while short-handed. And the special teams' scoring isn't reliant on one line. Eleven different players have scored with the man advantage, something Bailey said is important to team building.

The way we run our power play is we have guys from three lines so we don't just run our first and second line on the power play, we kind of mix and match and that gets guys involved. Then the guys who don't play on the power play are our top penalty kill guys and that gives everybody a purpose. In addition to that, we have three lines that can score goals five on five. It's nice to have that depth and that depth hasn't been there in years past and another key reason as to why we are where we are (in the standings).

No longer pushovers, the Mustangs will get an opportunity to go up against the region's top major midget teams in The Chronicle Herald East Coast IceJam Hockey tournament that begins Wednesday at the BMO Centre. The Mustangs will be joined by 20 other top-flight teams and open the tournament against the defending champion Moncton Flyers (3 p.m. Wednesday). For Bailey, the IceJam is an important tournament for the Mustangs and other Nova Scotian teams.

When I came through playing major midget we didn't have anything like this, it was just the Monctonian, said Bailey. It's nice to have a tournament that's home for us. It also gives our guys some really good visibility in terms of scouting from a variety of different leagues and we weren't getting that before. The Mustangs have a tough draw for the IceJam with   Moncton, the St. John's Growlers and Kensington Wild but Bailey isn't complaining.

That's super important especially for us this year, the way the draw worked out we get to play some of the top teams, so it's a good test for us moving forward. We wanted to see the teams that we could potentially face at Atlantics if it comes to that, so it's good. The boys are looking at it as a challenge. Obviously we want to win and keep our good season on a roll, but at the end of the day it's good to look at teams from the other leagues.