AMHERST – The Amherst CIBC Wood Gundy Ramblers recently learned an important lesson about playing the Maritime Junior Hockey League’s elite teams.
Coming off a 6-2 win over the Bridgewater Lumberjacks at home last week, the Ramblers will renew what has been at times a bitter rivalry with the defending Kent Cup champion Woodstock Slammer when the two teams clash at the Amherst Stadium on Saturday at 6 p.m.
The last time the two teams met, in Woodstock, the Slammers scored with 46 seconds left to force overtime and a shootout they would eventually win after the teams sent out 26 shooters.
The Ramblers followed that up with a 6-5 shootout loss on home ice to the Truro Bearcats, a team Amherst had a two-goal lead on in the third and faces four more times before the end of the regular season in early March.
“The important thing is to not make those mistakes late that can cost you a lead,” Ramblers’ coach Jim Bottomley said Thursday. “The guys need to be more aware of who’s on the ice against them and where they are. They also have be focused to get pucks a little deeper and prevent the turnovers.”
Bottomley said the last month of the season will be like the playoffs and the remaining games will prepare the club for what he hopes will be a long post-season run.
Woodstock was active at the trading deadline last week, picking up several players in hopes to taking a run at the Meek Division championship.
“They are always a championship caliber hockey team and you know you have to play your best against them,” he said. “The key for us is playing a physical game from the beginning. In the wins against them we forechecked them pretty hard, caused them to turnover the puck and took advantages of the opportunities we got.”
Bottomley expects a full lineup for Saturday’s game.
The Ramblers got some defensive assistance when former NHL defenceman and university coach Paul Boutilier worked with club in practice on Tuesday. He’s expected to take part in a few more practices the remainder of the season.
After Saturday’s game, the Ramblers are in Dartmouth on Tuesday to face the Metro Shipbuilders before coming home Jan. 26 to host Yarmouth.