Ramblers fall to bottom of Bent Division

Jody Jewers
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AMHERST?- And what happened then? Well in Ramblerville, they say, the Ramblers hearts grew three sizes that day.
With precious little to cheer about the last three months, the Stadium faithful got their money's worth Saturday despite their team's eighth straight Maritime Junior A Hockey League loss, 7-5 to the Halifax Lions.
Down 5-1 and staring a December with just one point in seven games square in the face with 20 minutes to go, the Ramblers scored four goals in a period for the first time since Sept. 24 and let loose their frustrations, with six fights among the 214 minutes in penalties called on a night that harkened back to the days when the jungle was deserving of its status as a tough place for a visiting team to come to.
Amherst slipped to the bottom of the Bent Division with the defeat and has lost all four meetings with Halifax this season, but it might have been the pressure valve that needed to be released.
"We knew we needed to do something," said alternate captain Derek Smith. "Guys were stepping up for each other and we started doing some of the things we ought to do."
But the question remains whether the Ramblers have too deep a hole to dig themselves out of once they reassemble for the stretch run. Amherst has 18 games left, including five with the Bent Division-leading Truro Bearcats, two with the Pictou County Weeks Crushers and one with the Woodstock Slammers - teams who have made major moves to make a run at a championship.
The Ramblers sit two points back of the Yarmouth Mariners for a spot in the best-of-three first-round divisional playoff. Yarmouth has two games in hand. Catching Truro is not going to happen, and it would take a major meltdown by Pictou County, third-place Bridgewater or the fast-rising Lions for Amherst to vault into the top four.
If the Ramblers play with as much life as they showed in the third period Saturday, they have a shot, according to head coach and general manager Corey Crocker. But it will take a full 60 minutes, and not the second-period collapse in which Halifax scored four times in the first 9:02.
"We're really not confident and our players are very tight, and that's what happens. You make mistakes," said Crocker. "We're trying to instill confidence and maybe tonight was what we needed, but the end result is the same and by no means are we happy about it."
To that end, the Ramblers have some decisions to make.
Captain Adam Chipman, one of three 20-year-olds on the roster, told the Amherst Daily News last week he would "have to have an open mind" should he be approached about a trade. Chipman brings plenty of grit and leadership, and could be used as a top-six forward or a shutdown winger on a checking line.
Smith would also fetch a high price on the trade market for his value as a smooth-skating, puck-moving offensive defenceman who can log major minutes.
"It's in the back of my head," Smith said when asked if he would consider being dealt to a contender. "I'm going to school in Springhill, so that's something I'd have to juggle. I'd have to think about it."
Smith had a goal and two assists Saturday. Drew McLaughlin, Jeremy Barron, Peter Baldwin and Simon Bissonnette also scored, and Jon Waye made 31 saves.
On Friday, Pictou County shaded the Ramblers 2-1 at the Stadium. Justin Matthews scored on a penalty shot in the first period for Amherst, and Waye stopped 25 shots. The Crushers were two-for-seven on the power play while the Ramblers were scoreless in six chances.
The Ramblers return to the ice Jan. 2 at home to Bridgewater.
OVERTIME - Forward Brandon Street is expected to report to the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League's Victoriaville Tigres after being traded by the P.E.I. Rocket on Friday. Amherst traded for Street's Maritime league rights in October ... Defenceman Eric Boudreau was scratched Saturday after taking the warmup, complaining of tightness in his chest.

jjewers@amherstdaily.com

Organizations: Halifax, Bent Division, Maritime Junior A Hockey League Amherst Daily News Quebec Major Junior Hockey League

Geographic location: Pictou County, Ramblerville, Springhill Brandon Street

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  • Vince
    February 24, 2010 - 23:45

    If fighting is what draws fans, then they got their money's worth tonight. Although
    the Ramblers lost the game I do believe that they played well enough to win. Two
    of the goals nr 6 and 7 were easy ones, however they all count. Although the season is gearing down there is lots of
    time for the Ramblers to make a run for
    a playoff spot.

    GO RAMBLERS GO