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When the puck drops for Sport 1 of the Quebec Main Junior Hockey League’s (QMJHL) last sequence in Quebec Metropolis on Could 12, two people from Charlottetown will discover themselves proper within the thick of the motion behind the Halifax Mooseheads’ bench.
Assistant coach Brad MacKenzie and gear supervisor Benji Newson are of their second season with the Mooseheads. Each got here to Halifax from the Maritime Junior Hockey League’s Grand Falls Rapids, the place MacKenzie served as head coach for 2 years.
“It’s been an incredible couple of years for me,” the 30-year-old MacKenzie instructed SaltWire in a telephone interview Could 9. “It’s an incredible group and clearly very skilled.
“The fan base is unimaginable with the help we recover from right here. We get all of it yr lengthy, however within the playoffs, it ramps up.
“Will probably be thrilling to see two of the largest markets go head-to-head within the last. I believe Quebec is bought out; their tickets are at (over) 18,000, and we’re getting shut (to a sellout) in our constructing, which holds over 10,000.”
MacKenzie’s main obligations with the Mooseheads are operating the defence throughout video games and overseeing the workforce’s penalty killing and 5-on-6 man-advantage conditions. Preparation and planning are areas the complete teaching workers takes lots of satisfaction in, he stated.
The Mooseheads’ highway to the ultimate was not with out adversity. After dropping the primary two video games of the semifinals at house to Sherbrooke, the Mooseheads responded with 4 straight wins.
“Will probably be thrilling to see two of the largest markets go head-to-head within the last. I believe Quebec is bought out; their tickets are at (over) 18,000, and we’re getting shut (to a sellout) in our constructing, which holds over 10,000.” – Brad MacKenzie
Though Halifax misplaced Sport 2 in time beyond regulation, MacKenzie felt the workforce rallying from a 2-0 deficit to tie the rating late and drive time beyond regulation proved to be a turning level within the sequence.
“The best way we pushed in Sport 2 gave our guys a way of perception that they we will play with these guys,” stated MacKenzie. “We went as much as Sherbrooke and stole a few video games of their constructing.
“It’s so necessary in playoffs when momentum shifts, generally you may maintain onto it, generally it’s arduous to get it again. It felt we bought extra management of the sequence.”
The QMJHL last options the regular-season’s prime two groups. The Mooseheads recorded 50 wins and 107 factors, two behind the Remparts, who had 53 victories.
MacKenzie agreed with the evaluation the Mooseheads could also be a bit bit forward of the place they anticipated to be at the moment.
“For those who had been to look again final yr you’d in all probability have a look at our workforce and say these guys will in all probability take a giant step and lead the Maritimes Division, however there have been nonetheless questions if it was this season or subsequent that we make a run?” stated MacKenzie. “Our administration group wished to verify we’ve got a window of two years to try to go (for a championship). We hope to not lose an excessive amount of subsequent yr and be capable of go make one other stab.”
Now, MacKenzie, head coach Sylvain Favreau and the remainder of the Mooseheads’ workers will match wits with Hockey Corridor of Famer and Quebec head coach Patrick Roy.
“He’s clearly a really well-respected hockey man and has accomplished an incredible job together with his workforce the final variety of years,” stated MacKenzie. “To go head-to-head with one of many prime organizations within the league is fairly thrilling.
“Our group desires to be close to the highest on a regular basis as effectively and they’re excited for that problem.”
The 23-year-old Newson stated the chance to be a part of a historic franchise just like the Mooseheads is particular. Halifax was the primary Atlantic Canadian workforce to hitch the QMJHL in 1994.
The fan base right here is unimaginable with the crowds we get each evening. It’s undoubtedly lots of enjoyable. To see how arduous these guys have labored all yr and to see it repay for them, it’s actually enjoyable to take a look at.”
As gear supervisor, Newson has a number of obligations. Actually, Newson joked it will in all probability be simpler to speak about what workers is just not chargeable for in comparison with what they’re.
“We glance after the gamers and ensure they’ve what they needn’t solely to carry out on the ice when it comes with the gear they put on and the rest,” stated Newson. “We need to ensure they’re snug and once they stroll into the rink, all they’ve to fret about is placing their gear on and getting the job accomplished.
“We ensure they’re effectively sorted and handled like they’re the most effective junior hockey gamers within the nation.”
Newson stated there are events when the gear workers should act quick to make repairs throughout video games. Examples embrace when a participant has skate or gear points.
“I’m additionally fortunate that I’ve a superb workers that works with me and is a giant assist in terms of that stuff,” stated Newson. “Throughout the recreation, I’ll usually keep on the bench, and they’re those who will usually take care of mid-game (repairs).
“I’m lucky to have a workers lots of groups might not have, however they’re a giant assist in terms of that kind of stuff.”
With the Mooseheads apply facility in Dartmouth and the workforce taking part in house video games in downtown Halifax, lots of time goes into transporting gear forwards and backwards, leading to lots of late nights and early mornings.
The transition to Scotiabank Centre often occurs the evening earlier than a house recreation.
“As quickly as the sport is over at house, relying on the schedule, we’ll head again right here to Dartmouth, unpack and prepare for apply or head out on the highway, regardless of the case is likely to be,” stated Newson.
Newson is in his seventh yr working as an gear supervisor. His resumé consists of stints with the Charlottetown Delight (now Knights) main under-18 workforce, Hockey P.E.I.’s Program of Excellence and the Rapids.
Newson stated he loves the work and hopes to proceed progressing within the sport.
“I realized at a really younger age I wasn’t going to make it very far in hockey as a participant,” stated Newson. “This appeared like the following neatest thing.
“Hopefully, I’ll get to maneuver up and work in skilled hockey in the future, whether or not it will likely be the NHL or minor skilled someplace. That’s the objective for everyone on the junior degree.
“For now, I’m specializing in what’s happening right here in Halifax.”
Jason Simmonds is a sports activities editor with SaltWire in Prince Edward Island. He will be reached by electronic mail at [email protected] and adopted on Twitter @JpsportsJason.