Ramblers battling flu bug heading into weekend action

Jody Jewers
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AMHERST - The H1N1 virus has hit several hockey teams hard, and the Ramblers are trying to make sure they're not next.
Forward Justin Matthews was diagnosed with it after displaying symptoms a week ago and vomiting between periods during Saturday's 6-0 loss to the Halifax Lions.
Matthews was feeling well enough to skate on his own yesterday morning while wearing a mask, and will consult with the team doctor today to determine whether he's able to return to the lineup for tonight's Maritime Junior A Hockey League game in Summerside against the reigning MJAHL champion Western Capitals.
Head coach and general manager Corey Crocker said several players had to leave Tuesday's practice with flu-like symptoms, and Wednesday's practice was shut down early.
"We disinfected our dressing room and all our gear, and all we can do is keep monitoring the situation over the next couple of days," Crocker said.
The flu bug is the last thing the Ramblers needed, as they managed just one win in three starts last weekend, and have dropped eight of their last 12 contests after winning five of six to start the season.
The Capitals season has mirrored Amherst's. After a blistering 7-1 start to the campaign, during which Summerside averaged close to seven goals per game, the Capitals have lost three straight and eight of their last 11. Summerside's offensive output has dropped to less than four goals per game during that span.
The Ramblers won the first meeting between these teams in the regular season, 2-1 in Amherst on Oct. 9.
Dieppe provides the opposition the following night at the Stadium at 7 p.m., in what could be considered another "trap" game. The Commandos are six games below .500 and have scored just 38 times in 18 contests, but beat the Capitals 4-2 on Wednesday.
Last week, Amherst played up to the level of the Bent Division-leading Truro Bearcats and skated off with a well-deserved 4-3 decision. The next night, the Ramblers were run out of their home rink by the Lions, who were averaging less than two-and-a-half goals per contest coming into the matchup.
After that hard-fought win over Summerside, the Ramblers fell behind 5-0 the next night to the Pictou County Weeks Crushers and lost 6-3.
"We have a younger team and we're not coming out and giving it a full 60 minutes every night," said Ramblers forward Jeremy Barron.
"But we can learn pretty quick from that. We just have to dig a little deeper to find a way to win."
Crocker also said forward Scott Bragg, who sat out last weekend with an undisclosed injury, is back on skates and will be a game-time decision Friday.

jjewers@amherstdaily.com

Organizations: Maritime Junior A Hockey League, Capitals, Halifax Lions Bent Division

Geographic location: AMHERST, Summerside, Pictou County

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