AMHERST - Those aren't the happy jingle of Christmas bells ringing in Ramblerland.
Those are full-blown alarms after the Maritime Junior A Hockey League club squandered a 4-1 third-period lead and lost 5-4 in overtime to the Dieppe Commandos on Sunday afternoon, less than 24 hours after being outclassed 6-1 by the powerhouse Woodstock Slammers at the Stadium.
Amherst managed to move into fourth place in the Bent Division with the point for the overtime loss, but the fifth-place Yarmouth Mariners are just one back with three games in hand, and the basement-dwelling Halifax Lions are two behind and have played half-a-dozen fewer games than Amherst.
While the loss to Woodstock can be rationalized - the Slammers have been all but untouchable this season, with just one shootout loss in 25 games - the setback to Dieppe, an organization in full rebuild mode after hosting the Fred Page Cup a season ago, might have been the breaking point for head coach and general manager Corey Crocker.
"It's the same old story with the same old guys," Crocker said. "We've got major, major decisions to make as an organization.
"That's what happens when things don't go your way. (Expletive) goes downhill in a hurry."
The Ramblers built their lead Sunday thanks to contributions from three different lines and a power play goal. Jeremy Barron, with two, Peter Baldwin, with his first as a Rambler, and Josh Coleman did the scoring. Barron, Amherst's leading scorer this season, netted his first goal in a month.
A Derek Smith turnover led to Dieppe's first goal of the third period just 25 seconds in. The Commandos made it 4-3 on a five-on-three, and Smith was in the box when Dieppe tied it at 7:42. Smith also got caught on a pinch-in that led to the game-winner on a two-on-one.
Ramblers goalie Jon Waye was peppered with 45 shots, including 22 in the third frame.
On Saturday, the Ramblers stayed with the Slammers for the first 30 minutes before the floodgates opened, as Woodstock scored four times in the final 10:18 of the second period to salt the game away.
Amherst's goal was a gift, with Kody Orr's harmless-looking low shot somehow getting between Slammers goalie Andre Guay's pad and the near post with 1:59 left in the middle frame.
Waye made 21 saves before being replaced by Devon Cudmore to start the third. Cudmore stopped five of the six shots he saw. In four meetings with the Slammers this year, Amherst has been outscored 21-5.
The Ramblers have put together quality efforts this season - the 5-0-0-1 September, and wins over Bent Division powerhouse Truro and reigning league champion Summerside are proof - but with only 13 points earned in 22 games since that hot start, the status quo is hurting more than it is helping.
"We've got to stay positive, somehow," Waye said. "I don't know how you do it. Right now, I'm struggling to do it myself.
"Everybody here has talent and can all play at this level. It's just whether or not they're willing to put in the work and they want it bad enough. If they don't, that's when changes have to be made."
NOTES - Orr missed Sunday's game to be with his family following the death of his grandmother last week ... The Ramblers have lost nine straight road games, and are 4-10-1-0 away from home this season ... Amherst visits Truro next Saturday, and Summerside the following afternoon.