SPRINGHILL, N.S. – They’re not registered on any stock exchange but, if they were, the Cumberland Colts value just shot right through the roof.
After finishing the 2017-2018 Nova Scotia Junior C Hockey League season with one win in 31 games, the Colts won their first game of the 2018-2019 season in a shootout and, also, earned a point with an overtime loss in their second game of the season, their home opener.
Much of the Colts upgrade in value can be attributed to newly-acquired goaltender Mike Payne.
“He’s quick, he squares himself up, and sees the puck really well,” said Paul Atkinson, general manager and president of the Junior C Colts.
Payne, of Riverview, started the first two games of the season for the Colts, first in Musquodoboit Harbour against the Eastern Shore Thunder, and then at their home opener in Springhill against the East Hants Penguins
Against the Thunder, Payne stopped 72 of 76 shots, leading his team to a 5-4 shootout win.
The next day in Springhill, Payne stopped 40 of 44 shots in a 4-3 overtime loss to the East Hants Penguins.
“He’s a welcome addition to the team,” said Atkinson. “Nobody is going to come to Springhill and think they’re going to have easy game anymore.”
But Atkinson says it’s not just goaltending making a difference.
“We have some very strong forwards but our defence, right now, is lacking in our own zone, but with some practice there’s going to be potential,” said Atkinson.
Most important of all, Atkinson says the Colts have players who want to play.
“We did have some good years in the past, but we struggled the last few years because we had kids who were not committed to play,” he said. “You can be the best player in the world but if you only show up to 10 of 30 games, everybody suffers.”
The Colts have several players from Springhill, Oxford and Amherst but most are from New Brunswick.
“We have two kids from Elsipogtog, New Brunswick, Aaron Sock and Stone Millier. They’re great hockey players and are going to help our team a lot,” said Atkinson. “They’re travelling two hours to get to practice. That’s commitment right there, but we need some local kids that are interested in getting out on the ice and practicing.”
He’s says the Colts should make the playoffs.
“If things stay the way they are, this is my early projection, we’ll be there.”
More important than making the playoffs though, is keeping kids active in hockey.
“Our team motto is to ‘take kids off the streets and into the rink,’” said Atkinson. “If it helps one kids stay off the streets and stay out of the drugs, that’s what this program was started for. That’s what it’s all about.”
Atkinson finished by thanking his coaching staff, Mark Landry and Jamie Rushton, and, also, the staff at the Richard Calder Arena in Springhill.
“The rink staff have been nothing but A-1 with us,” said Atkinson. “I need to give a shout out to them because they have been very accommodating.”