‘On the out­side look­ing in’

One-third into the sea­son, Crush­ers in un­fa­mil­iar ter­rain

The News (New Glasgow) - - SPORTS - BY KEVIN ADSHADE

They’ve lost six of their past seven, are three games un­der .500 and out­side a play­off po­si­tion.

Just 19 months re­moved from a Mar­itime Hockey League ti­tle and hav­ing never missed the play­offs in their 13-year his­tory, it’s not what the Ju­nior A Crush­ers — and their fans – are ac­cus­tomed to.

“We are in a sit­u­a­tion that is un­fa­mil­iar to us, as an or­ga­ni­za­tion,” gen­eral man­ager/as­sis­tant coach Chad McDavid said, with his team in the midst of a six-day break be­fore they wel­come the Mi­ramichi Tim­ber­wolves to the Pic­tou County Well­ness Cen­tre on Thurs­day.

The Crush­ers are five points back of the Truro Bearcats, who are in the fi­nal play­off spot of the South Di­vi­sion.

“We are not usu­ally on the out­side look­ing in come mid-Novem­ber. If we can’t find a way to turn this thing around in the next month or so, we’ll have to re-eval­u­ate.”

All teams deal with in­jury, but when the Crush­ers lost de­fence­man Marc Gagnon in late Oc­to­ber, it was a tough loss: coin­ci­den­tally or not, the los­ing started when Gagnon went down with an up­per body is­sue.

“Marc was ar­guably our best player un­til he was in­jured and he ate up a lot of min­utes on our blue­line. He played in all sit­u­a­tions,” McDavid said.

The in­jury, which may keep Gagnon out for an­other five weeks, forced other de­fence­men on the ros­ter to take on ad­di­tional work­loads. McDavid added that the team has been in­con­sis­tent this sea­son, at­tribut­ing that in part to all the new faces.

“Some­times when that hap­pens, when half your team is new to the league — or the area — it takes time for guys to get com­fort­able and to gel (but) our back end, as a group, are get­ting bet­ter ev­ery day.”

Coach Doug Doull said it’s not a mat­ter of the Crush­ers get­ting dom­i­nated on most nights. “We’re not get­ting out­played for long stretches of time, but we’re break­ing down in spots and can’t find the will to claw back. We are like that ea­ger lit­tle puppy that shakes and tears at things and then lets go, un­like the old dog who bites and holds.”

The next sev­eral weeks will de­ter­mine a lot about the Crush­ers, and whether they’ll be buy­ers or sell­ers (per­haps nei­ther) as the Jan. 10 trade dead­line ap­proaches.

“We’ve got to start win­ning some of these games if we want to be in a place where we can add pieces at the dead­line,” said McDavid, who ac­knowl­edged that if the Crush­ers look to be out of the play­off race when Jan­uary ar­rives, “my phone will be ring­ing off the hook,” with phone calls from other teams look­ing to add vet­eran help.

Note­wor­thy…

■ Cap­tain Michael Dill, the MHL scor­ing cham­pion last sea­son, hasn’t had a multi-point game since Sept. 28, which was 13 games ago.

Coach’s Take: “Dill’s forc­ing things, in my opin­ion, and that’s the sign of a frus­trated hockey player.”

■ The Crush­ers have only one player av­er­ag­ing a point per game this sea­son (Ja­cob Hickey has 8G, 10A in 18 games) and have been out-scored 31-15 in their past seven. Dy­lan Ri­ley has come on of late, but last sea­son’s rookie of the year still has only six goals.

Coach’s Take: “We have a young team, but some vet­er­ans would tell you they would have liked to have con­trib­uted more to this point.”

MARK GOUDGE/SALTWIRE NET­WORK

For­ward Ja­cob Hickey is shown in the Crush­ers’ 5-2 loss last Thurs­day to the Sum­mer­side Western Cap­i­tals.

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