Ramblers lose twice after stellar start to three-game weekend
AMHERST - What started out as a promising three-games-in-three-days stretch in the Maritime Junior A Hockey League for the Ramblers ended on a much different note.
After handing the Bent Division-leading Truro Bearcats just their second loss in regulation this season Friday, a 4-3 home win in arguably their best game of the season, the bordertowners turned in their worst effort to date the next night on Stadium ice, getting blown out 6-0 by the Bent's last-place team, the Halifax Lions.
Amherst had enough gas in the tank to open up a 4-2 lead through two periods yesterday in Bridgewater against the Lumberjacks, but sputtered down the stretch, giving up three goals in a span of 3:36 in the final frame, including the game-winner while on a power play, and lost 5-4.
Amherst falls back to the .500 mark at 9-8-0-1, and was passed by the Lumberjacks for second place in the Bent, though the Ramblers have two games in hand.
Head coach and general manager Corey Crocker summed up his team's performance thusly.
"It's pretty obvious," Crocker said from Bridgewater. "Friday we were good, last night we were bad, and tonight we were good and lost."
When asked if consistency was an issue, Crocker responded: "If you'd ever played the game, you'd understand that there's always going to be some give and take.
"Coaches and playe-rs have to buy into systems, and we're always searching for answers. We have to take responsibility as a group, players and coaches."
Simon Bissonnette scored twice for the Ramblers yesterday, giving him five points in his last five games. Shane O'Byrne contributed his second goal of the season, and rookie defenceman Brandon Mercer added his first. Jon Waye made 36 saves in defeat.
Amherst played minus forward Justin Matthews, who was feeling ill during Saturday's contest and didn't make the trip Sunday because of flu-like symptoms.
The Lions outshot their hosts 39-28 Saturday, including 13-3 in the final period. Rookie netminder Devon Cudmore made his first home start of the season, and was pulled in favour of Waye once Halifax's lead got to 4-0. Cudmore made 17 saves.
The Lions came into the game averaging less than two-and-a-half goals per contest. Amherst has been shut out three times this season, more than any other MJAHL?team.
Trevor Layton dented the twine for the first time this season Friday, giving the Ramblers the lead on a power play 2:36 after the opening faceoff. Jeremy Barron scored twice on five-on-threes as the home side fought back from 2-1 and 3-2 deficits against the stingy Bearcats, who had allowed only 20 goals against in 13 games coming into the matchup.
Adam Chipman's tip-in of a point shot with 8:22 remaining in the third period proved to be the game winner. Waye stood strong in goal, stopping 31 shots.
Amherst was also without forward Scott Bragg for the weekend, sidelined for two weeks with an undisclosed injury, according to Crocker. Jonathan Pardy remains home in Newfoundland rehabbing from offseason shoulder surgery.
The Ramblers play five of their remaining seven games in November on the road, beginning Friday with a trip to P.E.I. to take on the reigning MJAHL champion Summerside Western Capitals.
Amherst is home to the Dieppe Commandos the following night for a 7 p.m., start.