AMHERST -- The Ramblers (20-28-1-1) defeated the Truro Bearcats (36-7-3-3) 4-3 on Saturday night in Maritime Junior A Hockey League action at the Stadium.
Amherst clinched the final playoff berth in the Bent Division with the Yarmouth Mariners' 3-1 loss to the Halifax Lions this evening. The Ramblers will play the Bridgewater Lumberjacks in the best-of-three mini-series beginning Monday in Bridgewater.
Following is the live blog transcript.
Pre-game notes -- Ramblers must win tonight and hope the Yarmouth Mariners lose in regulation to the Halifax Lions tonight in Yarmouth to reach the playoffs. That game starts at 7:30 p.m., and updates will be posted as they are received ... Truro is 6-1 against Amherst this year, the lone Ramblers win a 4-3 decision Nov. 6 in the first meeting between these teams this season ... The Bearcats are riding a seven-game winning streak and are 7-1-1-1 this month. Amherst is 2-5 in February, with those wins coming against Campbellton ... Truro awaits the winner of the best-of-three mini-series between the fourth- and fifth-place finishers in the Bent Division in the league quarterfinals ... Halifax did not make the trip to Summerside last night because of high winds that shut down the Confederation Bridge, so it won't be Halifax's third game in as many nights in Yarmouth.
6:30 p.m. -- Teams out for the warm-up. Truro not dressing Matt Lundrigan, Dylan McGuigan, Cole Hawes and Chris Ivanko. Kodi Estey scratched for Amherst.
Referee tonight is Jason Blanchard.
Starting goaltenders are Jon Waye for Amherst and Richard Gagnon for Truro.
7:03 p.m. -- Puck has dropped and we're underway. Usual first line for Amherst of Justin Matthews, Brandon Street and Jeremy Barron, with Ryan Matheson and Eric Boudreau on defence.
7:04 p.m. -- Other line combos for Amherst are Mitchell O'Neill with Scott Bragg and Kody Orr, Peter Baldwin with Josh Coleman and Jon Pardy, and Trevor Layton centering Simon Bissonnette and Shane O'Byrne. Boudreau teamed with Yohann Mathieu and Matheson with Brandon Mercer. Drew McLaughlin and Wes Herrett round out the D.
7:07 p.m. -- Scott Bragg and Brett Frazee are nose-to-nose after a whistle. Nothing comes of it, though.
7:08 p.m. -- Gagnon lasted just 20 minutes the last time Truro was here and looked a little shaky playing the puck behind his own net, scrambling back to make a diving save, losing his blocker in the process.
7:11 p.m. -- 4:29 gone. Faceoff in the Truro end.
7:14 p.m. -- Some good forechecking by Truro's Jamie MacIntyre, keeping the puck pinned in the Amherst end, one-on-five, while his teammates were on a line change.
7:16 p.m. -- Ramblers strike first. Scott Bragg manages to cut across the grain and avoid three Truro defenders. His shot is stopped but a big rebound goes right to Kody Orr, who slides it home at 8:21. 1-0 Ramblers
7:18 p.m. -- Truro almost ties it as the puck hops over Eric Boudreau's stick at the Bearcats blueline, and Jordan Mock is in alone. Waye stops Mock's backhand deke, but Boudreau slashed Mock while trying to catch him, so he'll sit at 9:03.
7:21 p.m. -- Penalty over. Bearcats with just one shot on goal on the PP. 8:39 remaining.
7:23 p.m. -- 7:03 left. Shots are just 3-2 for Truro.
7:25 p.m. -- Bearcats going on the PP again. Josh Coleman called for slashing at 14:06.
7:27 p.m. -- Truro has tied it. Ben MacAskill's point shot manages to get by Waye at 15:28. Waye was moving to his right and had to reach back and got a piece of it, but the puck got between his outstretched glove hand and left pad. Assists to Dana Fraser and Yuri Cheremetiev. 1-1
7:32 p.m. -- Final minute of the period.
7:34 p.m. -- Period over. Shots just 5-4 for Truro.
After 20 minutes -- Four shots on goal is not acceptable for a team fighting for its playoff life. Ramblers need more sustained pressure on offence - pucks to the net and look for rebounds. Bearcats haven't really gotten out of first gear, and look just as concerned about staying healthy as they are about winning this game, which is understandable given their situation.
Second period coming up.
*** Halifax-Yarmouth game has started. Halifax dressing just 15 skaters tonight.
7:49 p.m. -- Second period has started.
7:51 p.m. -- Wild sequence to start this one. Scott Bragg pops Yuri Cheremetiev near about the same spot where Eric Louis-Seize hit Brandon Street, dislocating the AC joint in Street's shoulder. Cheremetiev is down and Luke Cudmore jumps in to square off with Bragg. As they square off, the Ramblers score. The goal is waived off, but a whistle never blew when Bragg and Cudmore dropped their gloves. Bragg and Cudmore get five for fighting at 1:35. Cheremetiev didn't miss his next shift.
7:55 p.m. -- Amherst with its first PP. Donnie Churchill called for slashing at 2:32.
7:57 p.m. -- More controversy as the Ramblers take the lead. Furious pressure from the first line and the puck seems to bounce up and off Gagnon's back and into the net ever so briefly before a defenceman swats it away. Truro protests but to no avail. Brandon Street credited with the goal, from Justin Matthews and Jeremy Barron at 3:18. 2-1 Ramblers
8 p.m. -- The Bragg hit and subsequent tussle was just what the home team needed. Got the crowd into the game and Amherst is playing with the required urgency now.
8:01 p.m. -- Amherst outshooting Truro 10-0 six minutes into the period.
8:03 p.m. -- Bearcats controlling the play now. Ramblers pinned in their own end most of the last two minutes, but it's been five-on-five.
8:04 p.m. -- End of the first period in Yarmouth. No score.
8:07 p.m. -- Josh Coleman whacking away at the puck at the side of the Truro net, and that draws a crowd. 10:27 to go.
8:09 p.m. -- Jordan Mock blows by Brandon Mercer on another breakaway attempt, but Waye shuts the door, this time on the forehand.
8:11 p.m. -- Scott Bragg catches Dana Fraser with an elbow to the face. Bragg's off at 10:46.
8:13 p.m. -- Penalty over.
8:14 p.m. -- 6:37 left in the second. Shots now 15-5 Amherst in the period.
8:16 p.m. -- Wes Herrett pinches in and the puck bounces off him and with to Jon Pardy for a scoring chance.
8:17 p.m. -- Another weird goal for Amherst. Jeremy Barron's wrister is deflected high off the end glass and bounces back to the crease near Gagnon's skates. Barron jabs home the rebound at 14:46. Assist to Justin Matthews. 3-1 Ramblers
8:20 p.m. -- 3:20 remaining. Faceoff to Waye's right.
8:21 p.m. -- Truro going back on the PP. Jon Pardy called for interference at 17:51. Peter Baldwin had followed his shot and was looking for a rebound, but lost an edge and slid into Gagnon. Pardy followed that up by pushing a Truro defender into the pile, hence the penalty.
8:24 p.m. -- 18.3 seconds left in the period and nine in Pardy's minor.
8:25 p.m. -- Ramblers have killed the penalty. Period has ended. Shots 17-9 Amherst in the period, 21-14 Ramblers through two.
After 40 minutes -- A couple of crazy bounces have given the hosts the lead. The Bragg hit on Cheremetiev really got the players and the fans into it, and Amherst was able to sustain momentum for the most part. Waye playing very well since Truro scored. Maintain that effort, and Amherst will get the two points it needs.
Third period to come.
*** Halifax has taken the lead over Yarmouth. Justin Belanger scores 53 seconds into the middle period.
8:47 p.m. -- Third period has started.
8:50 p.m. -- Truro with another man advantage. Trevor Layton called for hooking at 2:52.
8:53 p.m. -- Bearcats back within a goal. Evan Watts' point shot bounces off a man in front of Waye and in at 3:56 Assist to Yuri Cheremetiev. 3-2 Ramblers
8:57 p.m. -- Scott Bragg hauled down by Yuri Cheremetiev, but no call as the fans holler. Bragg then belts Luke Cudmore to the ice, drawing cheers.
8:57 p.m. -- Truro has tied it. Doug Burns walks in and beats Waye clean over the shoulder with a slapshot into the top corner at 6:31. Assist to Dana Fraser. 3-3
8:58 p.m. -- Amherst takes its 30-second timeout. Good call. Ramblers need to regroup.
9 p.m. -- Update from Yarmouth: The Mariners have tied it on Ryan Nickerson's power-play goal with 27 seconds left in the middle frame. 1-1.
9:02 p.m. -- 10:51 left in regulation. Shots 3-2 Truro in the period. Ramblers are still flat and need a pick-me-up.
9:03 p.m. -- And they get it. Kody Orr with his second of the game at 9:17. Assists to Scott Bragg and Mitchell O'Neill. Amherst's best line tonight. 4-3 Ramblers
9:05 p.m. -- More good work from the Orr-Bragg-O'Neill unit. Bragg just misses hitting O'Neill with a backhand pass that would've left him with half an open net to shoot at.
9:07 p.m. -- 8:40 to go. Faceoff to Waye's right.
9:09 p.m. -- Ramblers need to shorten the bench here and lean on their best. 6:03 remaining.
9:10 p.m. -- Truro ices the puck with 5:35 to go.
9:12 p.m. -- Ramblers being smart with their dumpouts, putting pucks at Gagnon and forcing him to play it. 4:06 left.
9:14 p.m. -- Waye covers up with 2:16 remaining and plenty of pushing and shoving follows, but nothing called. Faceoff to Waye's left.
9:16 p.m. -- Waye with a beauty toe save on a point shot. Puck flips up into the air and he snags it to stop play with 1:43 left.
9:17 p.m. -- Orr and Bragg with some more fine work. Orr's low shot sails just by the far post on Gagnon.
9:18 p.m. -- One minute to go. Gagnon comes to the Truro bench. Puck goes out of play with 42.9 seconds remaining. Faceoff at the Amherst blueline.
9:19 p.m. -- Truro knocks the puck down in the Amherst zone with a high stick. Faceoff comes out. Off the draw, Ryan Matheson hits the post on the empty net chance.
9:21 p.m. -- Game over. Ramblers mob Waye at the buzzer. Shots 6-6 in the third, 27-20 Amherst for the game.
Three stars -- 1. Justin Matthews, Amherst; 2. Jeremy Barron, Amherst; 3. Kody Orr, Amherst. Scott Bragg should've been in the mix there.
*** Third period has started in Yarmouth.
Final thoughts -- Ramblers deserve full marks for regrouping after Truro tied it. Orr-Bragg-O'Neill unit was tremendous, and Waye made the stops when he had to down the stretch.
The blog will remain live until until the end of the third period between Halifax and Yarmouth. 1-1 with 13:09 left in the third.
9:40 p.m. -- Halifax has taken the lead. Robbie Veriker at 6:51 of the third. 10:52 remaining.
10:11 p.m. -- Apologies for the delay, but it has been a chaotic 20 minutes or so with sporadic loss of Internet connection. The Ramblers did their post-game workout before huddling in their dressing room to await word from Yarmouth. Once the final score (3-1 Halifax) was announced, a thunderous cheer broke out in the Ramblers dressing room.
Amherst, with its win and Yarmouth's loss in regulation, passes the Mariners for the last playoff berth in the Bent Division (Both teams finished with 42 points, but the Ramblers finish with 20 wins to Yarmouth's 19, which is the first tiebreaker.). The Halifax victory also means the Lions clinch third place and push the Bridgewater Lumberjacks down to fourth and into the best-of-three mini-series with the Ramblers.
The Ramblers head to Bridgewater on Monday to start the series. Game 2 is Tuesday in Amherst, with Game 3 if necessary on Thursday back in Bridgewater. The Ramblers won four of five meetings with the Lumberjacks during the regular season.