Ramblers lose seventh in a row, 2-1 to Crushers

Jody Jewers
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AMHERST -- The Ramblers (11-18-1-1) lost 2-1 to the Pictou County Weeks Crushers (17-11-0-1) in Maritime Junior A Hockey League action tonight at the Stadium.

Following is the live blog transcript:

7 p.m. -- Teams out for the warmup. Pictou County is starting backup goalie Nick Spear and not Rambler-killer Justin Collier, who made 51 saves the last time he was here as a Yarmouth Mariner and blanked Amherst 1-0 on Oct. 17. Spear was obtained from Campbellton earlier this month in exchange for goalie Randy Chisholm.

No scratches for the Crushers, who are carrying only 16 skaters and two goalies. Kodi Estey a healthy scratch for the Ramblers, down to 21 bodies with the departure of Zach Carson to junior B. Jon Waye to start in goal.

Referee tonight is Steve Starzomski.

7:30 p.m. -- Puck has dropped and we're underway. First line for the Ramblers is Justin Matthews with Adam Chipman and Shane O'Byrne, and the usual defensive pairing of Derek Smith and Eric Boudreau.

7:32 p.m. -- And we have an early scrap, with O'Byrne vs. Danny Robichaud. O'Byrne with a flurry to start, but Robichaud lands on top at the end. Call it a draw. Both will sit five minutes for fighting at 22 seconds.

7:34 p.m. -- Other line combos for Amherst are Bragg-Orr-O'Neill, Baldwin-Barron-Layton and Coleman and Bissonnette rotated in as extra forwards. Other defensive pairings are Matheson-McLaughlin and Herrett-Mercer, with Mathieu as the seventh man.

7:38 p.m. -- Good shift from the Bragg-Orr-O'Neill unit, with the cycling game engaged to make the Pictou County defence do a lot of work.

7:39 p.m. -- First power play of the night goes to the Ramblers, with Jordan Kenny of Pictou going off for interference at 5:39.

7:41 p.m. -- 54 seconds left in the man advantage.

7:42 p.m. -- Penalty over. Ryan Matheson had a wide-open chance as the puck came back to him from the top of the circle, but he opted for a wrist shot after stopping the puck instead of a one-time slapper, and Spear was able to get a blocker on it.

7:44 p.m. -- Josh Coleman gets the elbow up on the forecheck, and it's called a check to the head at 9:18, which carries an extra 10-minute misconduct with it, so he's done for the period. Mathieu is serving the minor.

7:46 p.m. -- Geoff Hum is caught at the Amherst blue line, and Justin Matthews has a breakaway. He's hauled down and it's a penalty shot. Matthews makes a couple of dekes and almost loses the handle, but gets Spear to commit and slides home the forehand at 10:21. Shorthanded goal. 1-0 Ramblers

7:47 p.m. -- And now Kody Orr is sprung on a breakaway following another Pictou turnover in the offensive zone, but the puck rolls off his stick before he can get a shot away.

7:48 p.m. -- Ramblers get a big break. Delayed penalty call and the puck comes off the end boards and right to Geoff Hum, who deposits it in the open net but Starzomski waves it off, saying the puck was touched by a Rambler. If it was, it was for less than a split-second. Brandon Mercer to sit for boarding at 11:28.

7:51 p.m. -- Waye flashes the leather to snare a Mathieu Boudreau slapper. Ramblers dump the puck out on the ensuing faceoff and the penalty expires.

7:52 p.m. -- Danny Robichaud is down and hardly moving at centre ice, but pops up immediately as Yohann Mathieu and Ryan Fortune drop the gloves, so he's not hurt that badly. All this with 6:10 left in the period. Brief bout before both go down and the linesmen step in.

7:53 p.m. -- Ramblers draw the extra minor, with Mathieu getting two for slashing in addition to the coincidental fighting majors. Trevor Layton to serve the minor.

7:55 p.m. -- Waye giving up a lot of second-chance opportunities, but the defence has been there to clear loose pucks.

7:56 p.m. -- Just as that sentence is typed, Waye blocks a point shot but Cody Roland is on the doorstep and slides a rebound under Waye at 15:22. Assists to Geoff Hum and Scott McDonald. Power play goal. 1-1

7:57 p.m. -- Derek Smith is slashed coming through the neutral zone for the initial call, and more minors are coming following a post-whistle scrum. Robbie Little gets a double minor for slashing tand Kody Orr two for unsportsmanlike conduct at 15:39. Amherst on the PP.

7:59 p.m. -- Puck is turned over and it's a two-on-one for Pictou, but Waye shuts the door.

8:02 p.m. -- Penalty over. Bad giveaway by Simon Bissonnette at the Pictou blueline, and with Derek Smith headed to the bench, the middle of the ice was wide open and a Crusher had a breakaway, but his shot sailed well wide.

8:03 p.m. -- Final minute of the period.

8:04 p.m. -- Now Kody Orr and Ben Cameron are going at it. Cameron with a flurry of rights that sends Orr to a knee, but Orr pops back up and they're still trading blows. Orr switches to the left hand near the end of a long fight that both benches applaud. Good, clean bout and another draw at 19:31.

8:07 p.m. -- Period over. Shots 14-12 Pictou County.

After 20 minutes -- An eventful first frame, with three fights, a penalty shot and five power plays. Pretty even so far, with Amherst in command the first 10 minutes and Pictou in charge for most of the last 10.

8:22 p.m. -- Second period underway.

8:24 p.m. -- Mitchell O'Neill with a great chance off a rebound, but his shot sails over the net. Ramblers with some good pressure in the first two-and-a-half minutes.

8:25 p.m. -- Adam Chipman gets a tug on the arm as he comes out of his team's zone, and Mitchell Maynard will sit for holding at 2:58.

8:27 p.m. -- Ramblers only had four skaters out there for a good 10 seconds before Bissonnette jumps on the ice.

8:27 p.m. -- Penalty is nullified as Trevor Layton is called for hooking at 4:22. Looked like his stick was being held there.

8:28 p.m. -- Mitchell O'Neill sniffing around the net again, as his deflection of a point shot goes over the goal.

8:29 p.m. -- Waye out to stop a point shot, but the rebound goes right to Geoff Hum at the faceoff circle and his one-timer gets by Waye before he has a chance to recover. Another power play goal. Assists to Mitchell Maynard and Scott McDonald at 5:40. 2-1 Crushers

8:32 p.m. -- A head-scratcher from Starzomski, as Peter Baldwin is called for tripping at 7:52, but no one fell down.

8:33 p.m. -- Starzomski makes up for that with a holding-the-stick call on Pictou's Sean Hoyt at 8:27. Hoyt is incensed as he heads off.

8:35 p.m. -- The parade to the box continues, with Pictou's Robbie Little called for holding at 8:54. This is getting ridiculous, as Starzomski is calling way too many ticky-tack fouls and ruining the flow of the game.

8:36 p.m. -- Ramblers now with a five-on-three for 33 seconds.

8:38 p.m. -- Back to five-on-five hockey, but not for long as Mitchell O'Neill is slashed on the arm in the Pictou zone. Adam Slaunwhite to sit at 11:27. Ramblers need to capitalize with the extra man.

8:40 p.m. -- Amherst can't get established in the Crushers end. Pictou kills off another minor.

8:43 p.m. -- 5:00 left in the second. Shots 9-5 Pictou in the period.

8:44 p.m. -- Cody Roland with a late move on a three-on-one after Derek Smith is double-teamed and loses the puck, hitting the outside of the far post.

8:45 p.m. -- 2:55 to go.

8:48 p.m. -- Lots of whistles here, as the pace has slowed to a crawl.

8:49 p.m. -- Final minute. Puck is iced by Pictou with 47.3 seconds left.

8:50 p.m . -- Another excellent effort by O'Neill, going coast-to-coast for a scoring chance. He's been the best Rambler so far tonight.

8:51 p.m. -- Period over. Shots 10-7 Pictou in the second, 24-19 Crushers through two.

After 40 minutes -- Dull as dishwater compared to the first period, as the Ramblers just don't seem to have a sense of urgency given how hard wins have been to come by. You can hear a pin drop in the building, as a small crowd has had nothing to cheer about. Amherst really has to find an extra gear in the final 20 minutes and needs to put more pressure on Spear.

9:07 p.m. -- Ramblers didn't come out of the dressing room until there were about 40 seconds left in the intermission, which is a bit unusual. Head coach Corey Crocker out first, followed by the players then the assistants/trainers. Usually all the coaches/trainers come across the ice first.

9:07 p.m. -- Third period underway.

9:11 p.m. -- Jeremy Barron's shot from the slot deflected into the mesh with 3:28 gone.

9:13 p.m. -- Baldwin-Bissonnette-Layton as a unit with some solid forechecking to earn a faceoff in the Pictou zone.

9:14 p.m. -- Ramblers starting to put more pucks to the net, but they need bodies crashing the crease looking for rebounds.

9:15 p.m. -- Orr getting some extra ice centering Coleman and O'Byrne.

9:16 p.m. -- Ramblers keeping up the pressure. Chipman with a good second-chance opportunity. Shots 7-3 Amherst in the first 6:51 of the frame.

9:18 p.m. -- Derek Smith moved up to forward on a unit with Justin Matthews and Adam Chipman. Might as well try it.

9:20 p.m. -- Ramblers are really juggling the lines now. Orr with Barron and O'Byrne.

9:21 p.m. -- 10:41 left. Pictou retreating into full defensive mode, clogging the neutral zone and playing dump-and-chase hockey on offence.

9:23 p.m. -- Puck iced by the Crushers with 8:34 left.

9:24 p.m. -- Ramblers trying to sneak a couple of forwards in behind the Pictou defence, hoping to connect on a stretch pass. Amherst dominating the play territorially.

9:27 p.m. -- Starzomski has apparently put the whistle away and the pace has picked up as a result.

9:27 p.m. -- 5:15 to go. Faceoff to Waye's left.

9:28 p.m. -- Line of O'Neill-Bragg-Coleman with Amherst's best chance of the period, creating all kinds of traffic in front of Spear. O'Neill working his tail off out there.

9:29 p.m. -- Spear covers up again as Matthews, Smith and Chipman crash the crease. 4:14 left.

9:32 p.m. -- Derek Smith gets a stick in the face and goes down in front of the Pictou net, but Starzomski's hand doesn't go up. Play blown dead and the faceoff comes outside the Crushers zone. 2:19 to go.

9:33 p.m. -- And now Starzomski's hand is raised as Drew McLaughlin is called for interference with 1:56 left. Amherst bench is incensed and rightly so, as this was not the time for a borderline call after the Smith slash was missed and nothing else had been called in the period. Amherst in a huge hole now.

9:35 p.m. -- 1:26 left and the faceoff in the Crushers end. Waye is still in the Amherst net.

9:35 p.m. -- Final minute.

9:35 p.m. -- Final nail in the coffin from Starzomski, as Ryan Matheson called for high-sticking with 33.2 seconds left. Fans heading for the exits. Amherst calls timeout with the faceoff coming to Waye's right.

9:38 p.m. -- Crushers play keepaway to run out the clock and it's over. Shots 14-5 Amherst in the third, 33-29 Ramblers for the game.

Three stars -- 1. Geoff Hum, Pictou County; 2. Scott McDonald, Pictou County; 3. Shane O'Byrne, Amherst. Would've gone with Mitchell O'Neill at No. 3.

Final thoughts -- One of the best third periods the Ramblers have played this season despite the loss, and the penalty call to McLaughlin at the end was unwarranted.

An excruciating result for a team with a fragile psyche -- Amherst played even-up with Pictou in the first, nodded off in the second and fell behind as a result but had chances to tie it in the period and couldn't convert, then came out with the sense of desperation it needed to in the third but wasn't rewarded.

The losing streak is now at seven games heading into the Ramblers' final game before Christmas, when the Halifax Lions are in town Saturday at 7 p.m.

jjewers@amherstdaily.com

Organizations: Maritime Junior A Hockey League, Halifax Lions

Geographic location: Pictou County, Campbellton

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