Ramblers ready for long playoff run

Darrell
Darrell Cole
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Game 1 of Eastlink semifinal series tonight in New Glasgow

Months of team building will culminate tonight in the opening of the 2014 MHL playoffs.

Amherst CIBC Wood Gundy Ramblers goalie Richard Tingley makes a blocker save in recent MHL action. The Ramblers open the playoffs tonight in New Glasgow.

AMHERST – Months of planning, preparation, dedication and sacrifice have come to fruition tonight as the Amherst CIBC Wood Gundy Ramblers open their 2014 Maritime Junior Hockey League playoff series against the Pictou Weeks Crushers.

Game 1 is in New Glasgow tonight while the second game of the series returns to the Amherst Stadium on Saturday at 7 p.m.

All games in the series are being broadcast on 107.9 Tantramar Community Radio.

For veteran players like Brett Shute and Richard Tingley, who are finishing their fourth and final seasons in the Rambler jersey, it’s a chance to get over the top and possibly earn a shot at the Kent Cup in a month or so.

“It sure would be a nice way to go out, to go out on top,” said Shute, who shed his defensive forward role this season to score 25 goals and 55 points. “Some of us were here in the lean times when we didn’t make the playoffs. It sure would be nice to go out as league champion.”

Shute said the Ramblers have developed a reputation in the league as being tough to play against, especially at home. He’s hoping it’s something that will carry on into the playoffs, and he’s looking for a repeat of last year when the Ramblers were the underdog against the favoured Yarmouth Mariners.

“We just have to play our game. That’s getting pucks deep and working on their defence,” Shute said. “We just have to crash and bang.”

Tingley, who won the team MVP award on Wednesday night, is pleased with how far the team and the franchise has come since he arrived four years ago.

“We’ve come so far and so have I, there’s been so much improvement and it’s hard to ask for much more,” Tingley said. “This is going to be a battle. The boys are ready to go.”

The fact there’s a nucleus of players who’ve been with the club for three or four season. He believes that will help in the playoffs, especially in key situations.

“Experience has to mean something. We have a great bunch of guys,” he said.

Captain Cam McDonald said the club is ready to go and has a good feeling going in. He said the team will succeed if it’s stays healthy.

“Hopefully we won’t be injury bitten like we were last year,” he said. “It’s going to take a lot of sacrifice and guys buying into the system. I feel like we have the potential to make a good run.”

Ben MacDonald is pretty confident heading in.

“We have a good team here. We have good defence, great goaltending and forwards who can put the puck in the net,” Bottomley said. “I’m pretty confident in how we’ll do, we just have to play like we do in our own rink. We have to play a physical game and get a jump on them early.”

MacDonald said one of the keys will be getting Daniel Walsh back in the lineup.

“That’s like having 30 points we didn’t have during the regular season,” he said.

Defenceman Jamie Bishop also feels comfortable.

“A lot of  us have been together for three or four years and we have a close team this year. We should have a good run. We’d like to bring home the championship this year,” said Bishop, who is one of 10 graduating players on the roster.

Coach Jim Bottomley said his players have been working hard all week in practice and are ready to go. He’s also happy to see the team healthy for the first time since Christmas.

“It’ll be our first games together in a bit and we’ll only get better as we go deeper into the playoffs,” Bottomley said. “We’ve worked hard in practice all week. Hopefully it will rub off in playoffs.”

He hopes this is the year the team gets over the hump an into the Kent Cup final, after being eliminated in the division final the last two seasons.

Key to beating the Crushers, he said, is playing physical and getting more pucks to the net and more traffic in front of the Crushers’ goalies.

darrell.cole@tc.tc

Twitter: @ADNdarrell

Organizations: Amherst CIBC Wood Gundy Ramblers, Maritime Junior Hockey League, Tantramar Community Radio

Geographic location: New Glasgow, Amherst Stadium

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