Battle royale brewing
Four divisional rivals in the thick of fight for playoff berths
TRURO, N.S. – Four teams. Two points.
As incredible as it may be, that’s the way things stacked up this week in the Maritime Junior Hockey League.
The Eastlink South division had Amherst Ramblers and Truro Bearcats tied for second place with 49 points. The Pictou County Crushers and South Shore Lumberjacks were deadlocked for the fourth and final playoff spot – but just a point back of Amherst and Truro, each with 48.
Three of the four teams saw action last night – Yarmouth was in Amherst, the Crushers in Truro. The Mariners appear poised to lock up first place in the division – though it’s apparent, pretty much anything could happen – as they sit with 58 points; the Valley Wildcats are the league’s cellar-dwellers, with 23, well back of the pack.
The Bearcats posted their sixth straight win Saturday, a 5-1 decision over the Ramblers at the RECC. That, after a 4-2 victory the night before against the visiting Grand Falls Rapids.
Sunday, however, in Summerside, the Bearcats’ six-game win streak came to a halt as the league-leading Capitals doubled Truro 4-2. Summerside, this week ranked second in the Canadian Junior Hockey League, along with Edmundston, Fredericton and Campbellton have already punched their tickets to the playoffs. Grand Falls and Miramichi are out.
CAPITALS 4 BEARCATS 2
After a scoreless first, the Capitals took control in the middle frame to lead 4-1.
Ben Higgins had his 36th goal of the season to put Truro on the board and Jason Imbeault added the other Bearcats’ marker late in the third.
Carson Mackinnon, Ed Mcneil, Ryan Roberts and Marc-andre Lecouffe scored for the Caps.
Goalie Sebastien Plamondon faced 40 Summerside
shots in the Truro net, while the Bearcats had 19 shots at the other end.
BEARCATS 5 RAMBLERS 1
Saturday’s contest got off to an interesting start. Before the close of the first period Truro was enjoying a 3-1 lead, on fewer than 10 shots.
James Walker, Spencer Blackwell and Lucas Parsons tallied for the Bearcats while Caleb Rich had what would be Amherst’s lone goal on the night. Higgins scored in the second. Sliding on his back, he was somehow able to roof the puck on netminder Matthew Normore to make it 4-1. Curtis Heffernan scored midway through the third to round out the 5-1 final.
Netminder Alec Macdonald turned aside 33 of 34 shots for the win.
Walker, with a goal and two assists, and Imbeault, with three helpers, each finished the night with three points.
BEARCATS 4 RAPIDS 2
Friday night, with the teams deadlocked at two, Higgins scored the winner with just 34 seconds remaining in regulation time.
Imbeault, Walker and Blackwell, with an emptynetter had the other Truro goals.
Matthew Mackay and Brandon Brazeau replied for Grand Falls.
Macdonald tended goal and faced 35 shots, while his teammates fired 21 at the Rapids’ net.
Wednesday’s outing against the Crushers marked the Bearcats’ fourth game in six days.
Friday they’re on the road to face South Shore and Saturday they’ll travel to Yarmouth for a contest against the division-leading Mariners.
Friday, Feb. 28, Truro is back at the RECC to face the Fredericton Red Wings at 7 p.m. and the following night they host the Mariners, also at 7 p.m.
Ben Higgins of the Truro Bearcats managed to lift the puck over Amherst netminder Matthew Normore during second-period action Saturday night. The Bearcats improved their standing in the MHL’S south division with a 5-1 victory over the Ramblers.
Truro netminder Alec Macdonald turns aside a shot during MHL action Saturday night in the Truro Bearcats’ 5-1 win over the Amherst Ramblers.