Two games in Yarmouth, followed by home date with Bridgewater
AMHERST - The young Ramblers have passed their early tests in the Maritime Junior A Hockey League season, taking five out of a possible six points.
So consider this their first exam of the 2009-10 campaign - consecutive road contests against the Yarmouth Mariners beginning tonight, then a long road trip home with little chance to rest before Jim Bottomley's Bridgewater Lumberjacks make their first visit to the Stadium this season on Saturday.
"It's a good team-building weekend for us," Ramblers head coach and general manager Corey Crocker said. "We've had two good practices this week and some fitness sessions, and we continue to see improvement in our hockey club.
"Trips like this are part of junior hockey, and we'll see how we deal with it."
Ramblers captain Adam Chipman skated Wednesday for the first time since being shut down in the second half of last Saturday's 4-3 home win over the Pictou County Weeks Crushers with flu-like symptoms.
"I felt just exhausted, but I think I'm over it now," said Chipman, a Tupperville, Annapolis Co., native who expects to have several family members make the trip along the Bay of Fundy for the games in Yarmouth.
"Things went OK in practice and I should be good."
Chipman is savouring the road trips a bit more this season, since it will be his last of junior hockey. He admits he was a little unsure how this club would look with the departure of several key veterans.
"I was a little nervous coming into camp with just me and Derek (Smith) being the only 20-year-olds," said Chipman. "I've been impressed with how we've played, but I'm not shocked.
"We're basically a bunch of role players with some skill who have bought into a system. Jon Waye's starting to play a little better in net, and we're doing all right. But we can't get too comfortable."
Defenceman Eric Boudreau is expected to make his season debut tonight after missing the first three games of the year with an ankle injury.
Crocker plans to give Waye's backup, Cornwall (P.E.I.) Thunder major midget graduate Devon Cudmore, his first start at the junior A level in one of the back-to-back-to-back games.
The Ramblers are now carrying 22 bodies (excluding injured forward Jonathan Pardy) with the departure of forward Jordie Shaw, who has returned to the defending provincial junior B champion Cumberland County Blues for another year.
Shaw had been a healthy scratch twice for Amherst. The Ramblers have designated him as an affiliate player.
"His decision caught me off-guard a bit, as we had what I thought was a good conversation about his role on this team when we picked it," said Crocker.
"But he'll be in a good situation, and he'll be able to contribute for that team."