YARMOUTH – Brett Shute scored just eight seconds into overtime to cap an amazing comeback as the Amherst CIBC Wood Gundy Ramblers defeated the Yarmouth Mariners 5-4 in the opening game of their Eastlink Division semifinal series on Saturday.
“The goalie misplayed the puck behind the net and it came out front. The defencemen went to Kody (Orr) when he went for and was I able to put it in the net,” the 19-year-old Harbour Grace, N.L. said moments after the game. “It’s great to get the first win. We really needed the first one because it gives us the momentum coming home.”
Game 2 in the best-of-seven series is Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. at the Amherst Stadium.
Trailing 4-1 just seven minutes into the second period, Ramblers’ coach Jim Bottomley called a timeout to refocus his players. The move paid off as the Amherst dominated the remainder of the period, scoring three times in six minutes to knot the score at 4-4.
“The biggest thing I told them was there was more than half a game left and that they controlled their own destiny,” Bottomley said. “We talked about winning the last half of the game and getting more pucks to the net. We watched their goalie in the warmup and they were beating him high consistently.”
The key, he said, was the Ramblers stopped sitting back and waiting for the Mariners to come. Instead, they used their speed and started to carry the puck.
Brock Morrison started the comeback when he outwaited Mariners’ goalie Travis Wilkins and flipped the puck into an empty net, while Jacob Conrad pulled Amherst to within a goal when he picked up his own rebound and beat Wilkins at the 10:19 mark.
Morrison completed the comeback when Serge Boisvert beat a pinching Yarmouth defenceman to the puck and passed it to the Howie Centre resident and former Mariner. Morrison broke in the left side and roofed the puck over Wilkins’ shoulder to silence what had been a noisy sellout crowd.
“Brock has scored some big goals for us this year and it was to see him come through here. He used to play here and I think he had a point to prove,” Bottomley said.
There was no scoring in the third period, although the Ramblers had to kill off a pair of penalties later in the period to preserve the tie.
Ben Berisha opened the scoring for Amherst just 1:28 into the first period when his long shot fooled Wilkins. Zach Henry tied the game at the 12:59 mark when he was left alone in front of the next and slipped the puck by Ramblers’ goalie Richard Tingley, who had gotten caught out of position to the side of the net.
Brandon Bussey started a three-goal onslaught just 1:06 into the second when his long shot from the middle of the ice beat Tingley through the legs, while Morgan Messenger knocked home a rebound at 5:09.
Matt Tomah concluded the outburst when his snapshot through a screen went in off the goalpost. It was after the Tomah goal that Bottomley called the timeout.
“I thought we started the game good. Bennie got that greasy goal to get it going, but then we sort of sat back and things started to fall apart. During the timeout we talked about it and reset ourselves. In the playoffs you can’t panic. You’re going to have your ups and downs, we just had to keep battling and win the second half. Yarmouth’s a great team, but we knew even when we were down 4-1 we could come back,” Orr said.
The Ramblers were without Jeff MacPherson, Robert Davis and Josh Pugsley on Saturday. MacPherson will dress Tuesday and Bottomley expects Pugsley to return to the lineup as well. Davis has one game remaining on a four-game suspension.
Defenceman Jamie Bishop was noticeably limping following Saturday’s game, but he plans to play Tuesday. Bishop missed the last two weeks of the regular season with a lower body injury.