Weeks Crushers in town to rekindle rivalry
Jordan King and the Amherst CIBC Wood Gundy Ramblers begin the 2017-18 Maritime Junior Hockey League regular season at home on Saturday against the Pictou County Weeks Crushers.
While the Amherst CIBC Wood Gundy Ramblers have one of the strongest teams on paper, coach and general manager Jeff LeBlanc knows paper doesn’t win a championship.
The Ramblers will open their 2017-18 Maritime Junior Hockey League regular season at home Saturday when they host the Pictou County Weeks Crushers – a team they defeated in overtime in Game 7 of last year’s playoffs.
“I’ve known from good teams I’ve had in the past that (being good) on paper doesn’t mean anything when you start playing games,” LeBlanc said. “The best we can do to manage expectations is by not worrying about them. The only thing we can control is what we do on the ice.”
The Ramblers enter the season having lost only one game during the exhibition schedule and even in that game the club dominated the Summerside Western Capitals, but couldn’t beat their goalie.
The team has a solid nucleus of returning players led by forwards Jordan King, Felix LeBlanc, Brock McEwen and Layton Parsons, defencemen Lucas Sangster, Dawson Grenier and Matt Sartoris and goalie Julian Galloway.
Joining the club this year via trade are forwards Brady GriffinHefford, who was acquired from St. Stephen; Liam Conrad and Will Lafford, picked up from Edmundston; former Calgary Mustang Tayden Woods and Alex Beaulieu, who was picked up from Campbellton; as well as former Charlottetown Islanders and Quebec Remparts defenceman Jake Barter.
They’re joined by draft picks Brandon Stone and Dayne Chasse from Halifax, Bradley Dawe from Cole Harbour and Moncton’s Cole Waugh, who saw playoff action for the Ramblers last season.
It adds up to a strong lineup, but LeBlanc said it’s too early to be making boasts about winning a championship.
“At this point of the year you take it in baby steps, one game at a time,” LeBlanc said. “We have 14 new faces in our lineup, so the chemistry is going to take a while. I expect some growing pains early in the season, but it’s a very talented group we put together. I think we’ll be there in the end, but it’s going to take a little bit of time.”
The Ramblers coach is also very aware of just how strong the Eastlink South Division is. He said every team in the division improved over the summer and while the Saturday’s opponent lost some key players, LeBlanc said they’re still potent with Michael Dill and Dylan Riley.
NOTES: The Ramblers picked up goalie Xavier Cormier and a draft pick from Edmundston earlier this week while club released Alex Wynter, Cole Darragh and Simon Henman. Amherst is on the road Friday, Sept. 22 to play the Valley Wildcats before coming home Saturday, Sept. 23 to host the Woodstock Slammers.
The Amherst Ramblers, seen here playing an exhibition game against the Capitals on Saturday, will open their regular season schedule against the Pictou County Weeks Crushers tomorrow night at Amherst Stadium.