Ramblers fall 7-5 to Lions

Jody Jewers
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Enter Christmas break on eight-game losing streak

AMHERST -- The Ramblers (11-19-1-1) lost 7-5 to the Halifax Lions (11-12-2-0) in Maritime Junior A Hockey League action tonight at the Stadium. Amherst heads into the Christmas break having lost eight straight games (0-7-1) and is now in last place in the six-team Bent Division.

Off-ice news -- Forward Brandon Street's Quebec Major Junior Hockey League rights were traded Friday by the P.E.I. Rocket to the Victoriaville Tigres in exchange for forward Bradley MacDonald, who is dressed for Halifax tonight. Street's Maritime league rights are owned by the Ramblers, and were acquired in October from the Summerside Western Capitals in exchange for the rights to defenceman Robert McEwan, who reported to the Capitals after being released by the QMJHL's Saint John Sea Dogs.

Update -- Ramblers head coach Corey Crocker said post-game that he expects Street to report to Victoriaville.

Following is the live blog transcript:

6:30 p.m. -- Teams out for the warmup. Same lineup as last night for Amherst, with Kodi Estey the lone scratch. Not dressed for Halifax is Steven Popovich. Starting goalies are Jon Waye for Amherst (10-13-1-1, 3.19 GAA, .911 Sv%) and Kody Blois for Halifax (9-12-2, 3.04 GAA, .923 Sv%).

6:57 p.m. -- Eric Boudreau announced as a late scratch for Amherst. He came out for the warmup. Kodi Estey, who did not take the warmup, has suited up.

Update -- Boudreau with tightness in his chest after taking a hit during Friday's game with Pictou County, according to Crocker, and sitting him was a precautionary measure.

Referee tonight is Kevin Arsenault.

7:01 p.m. -- Puck has dropped and we're underway. Chipman-Matthews-Barron with Derek Smith and Yohann Mathieu in Boudreau's spot on defence to start.

7:02 p.m. -- Early power-play chance for Amherst, as Andrew Wigginton goes off for hooking at 58 seconds.

7:02 p.m. -- The Orr-Bragg-O'Neill unit from last night is intact and starts this PP.

7:03 p.m. -- Amherst capitalizes. Drew McLaughlin pinches in from the point and gets a great feed from Mitchell O'Neill and sends it home at 1:28. Blois had no chance. McLaughlin's first goal since Sept. 19. Second assist to Kody Orr. 1-0 Ramblers

7:05 p.m. -- Estey out there with Coleman and O'Byrne, leaving Baldwin-Layton-Bissonnette as the fourth unit. Matheson-McLaughlin and Herrett-Mercer are the other defensive pairings.

7:09 p.m. -- Waye slides across the crease and is in perfect position to stop a Kyle Dilosa one-timer on a nice feed from Travis Perry.

7:09 p.m. -- Great pace to start this game. Both teams really skating hard out there.

7:11 p.m. -- Halifax's first power play, as Kody Orr sent off for boarding at 7:06.

7:12 p.m. -- Peter Baldwin takes a slapshot off the instep of his left foot, and hobbles off. Didn't miss his next shift.

7:14 p.m. -- Justin Matthews just got caught in the trolley tracks by Chris Riguse. Matthews was by himself and killing time on the PK in the Halifax zone and tried to cut across the grain for a shot on goal, and Riguse met him in in the middle of the zone and flattened Matthews clean with a shoulder. Matthews popped right back up and skated off.

7:15 p.m. -- Amherst back on the PP after the successful kill. Brendan Taylor called for tripping at 10:12.

7:17 p.m. -- Man advantage negated as Adam Chipman caught for slashing at 10:49.

7:18 p.m. -- Now a Halifax PP, as Kody Orr called for slashing well after the whistle had blown at 11:27. Orr has been taking more than his fair share of penalties lately.

7:19 p.m. -- And the Lions have capitalized just as the five-on-three starts. Kyle Mariani with all day to shoot and picks the top corner at 12:12. Assists to Wayne Bedecki and Dylan King. 1-1

7:20 p.m. -- 35 seconds left in the Orr minor.

7:22 p.m. -- Now back to an Amherst PP as Orr steps out of the box, as Brendan Taylor gives Derek Smith a stick to the face, and it's a double-minor for high-sticking at 13:33. Great chance for the Ramblers here, as they've spent a lot of time in their own zone killing penalties this period. Shots are 13-4 Halifax.

7:23 p.m. -- Jeremy Barron at the doorstep, but Blois comes across the crease and cuts that off as Barron couldn't find the handle.

7:25 p.m. -- First minor over. Ramblers having trouble getting established in the Halifax zone.

7:27 p.m. -- Second minor over. Amherst with no shots on goal in the four-minute man advantage.

7:29 p.m. -- Final minute. Brandon Mercer called for interference with 54.7 seconds to go, so Halifax with the PP.

7:31 p.m. -- Period over. Shots 13-5 Halifax.

After 20 minutes -- Ramblers got off to a great start, but ran into penalty trouble then couldn't capitalize on their PP chances. The Lions, as noted the last time they were here, have some wheels and creativity on offence, so Amherst has to maintain discipline and continue to skate with them.

7:46 p.m. -- Second period underway. 1:05 left in Mercer's minor.

7:48 p.m. -- Now a five-on-three for 15 seconds. Justin Matthews whistled for holding at 50 seconds.

7:49 p.m. -- Lions have taken the lead on the power play at 1:47. Dylan King from Brendan Taylor and Travis Perry. 2-1 Lions

7:50 p.m. -- Now 3-1, as Waye can't corral a loose puck, and Ben Clarke beats an Amherst defender to the puck and slides it home at 2:02. Assists to Kyle Dilosa and Chris Riguse. 3-1 Lions

7:52 p.m. -- The Estey-O'Byrne-Coleman unit with some good forechecking. Ramblers need to respond here. The next goal is a must.

7:54 p.m. -- Adam Chipman with a low wrister, and his rebound from a bad angle sneaks under Blois's pads and slides through the crease mere millimetres from the goal line.

7:56 p.m. -- Amherst with the man advantage again. Derek Smith taking a lot of punishment tonight, as Kyle Dilosa runs him hard into the boards after Smith cleared the puck. Called roughing at 5:32.

7:58 p.m. -- Halifax ups the lead. Drew McLaughlin has the puck in his skates and turns it over at centre ice, allowing Stuart Lenehan to walk in. Bradley MacDonald with a weak rebound shot that Waye should have had, and it's 4-1. Lenehan with the assist. 4-1 Lions

8 p.m. -- And now Amherst takes a penalty in the Halifax zone, with Shane O'Byrne going off for interference at 7:12. Ramblers getting frustrated.

8:02 p.m. -- Halifax with its third power-play goal as the puck isn't swept off the goalline in time. Travis Perry with an unassisted effort at 9:02. 5-1 Lions

8:03 p.m. -- Ramblers now need six goals to win this hockey game, which they haven't accomplished since September. Surprised Waye is still in there, as he's been pulled sooner in similar situations this season.

8:07 p.m. -- Scott Bragg with one too many yanks on the back of Stuart Lenehan's sweater well after the whistle had blown, and he'll sit for roughing after the whistle at 11:48.

8:08 p.m. -- Now a five-on-three, as Wes Herrett goes off for interference at 12:08. Last thing the home team needs here.

8:10 p.m. -- Sixth goal by Halifax is waved off as the net came off its moorings. 14 seconds left in Bragg's minor.

8:11 p.m. -- Ramblers have killed off the five-on-three.

8:14 p.m. -- Simon Bissonnette with some strong work on the puck to draw a penalty. Stephen Woodworth called for thooking at 16:10. Ramblers desperately need to score.

8:15 p.m. -- Jeremy Barron with a good end-to-end rush, but Justin Matthews couldn't convert the centering pass. Dylan King with a nice hustle play to get back and prevent a Mitchell O'Neill scoring chance on the next trip up the ice.

8:16 p.m. -- Penalty over. 1:26 left in the period.

8:18 p.m. -- Final minute.

8:19 p.m. -- Period over. Shots 17-12 Halifax in the second, 30-17 Lions through two.

After 40 minutes -- It would take a Christmas miracle for the Ramblers to win this one, as five goals in a game has become an unrealistic expectation for this team, much less five goals in a period. Undisciplined play and a couple of soft goals allowed by Waye have just deflated the home side. All that remains to be seen if the Ramblers will make an effort in the final 20 minutes or admit defeat right away and start gooning it up.

8:38 p.m. -- Brief delay here, as the Ramblers are doing a raffle draw on the ice prior to the start of the period.

8:41 p.m. -- Third period underway.

8:42 p.m. -- And the Ramblers are in the box again. Jeremy Barron tangled up with Kody Blois behind the goal line, and it's called goalie interference just 16 seconds in.

8:44 p.m. -- Penalty over.

8:47 p.m. -- Scott Bragg sends Kyle Dilosa sprawling at centre ice. Good hit.

8:47 p.m. -- Halifax just misses another chance, as Andrew Wigginton's redirect just skims past the far post on Waye.

8:49 p.m. -- Adam Chipman taking a beating from Ben Clarke in the corner, and the referee has it called, but more pushing and shoving after the whistle and the Ramblers frustration has boiled over, as Chipman, Wes Herrett and Brandon Mercer are all squaring off. Funny sight as Jon Waye and Kody Blois are passing the puck to each other as the sticks, gloves and helmets are being picked up. Those who like their trainwrecks got their money's worth, though, as it drew the biggest crowd reaction of the night -- always an encouraging sight that humanity is headed in the right direction to hear adults yelling at teenagers to beat the hell out of each other.

This will take a while to sort out.

8:55 p.m. -- Mercer and Herrett are sent to the showers, as is Justin Belanger of Halifax.

8:56 p.m. -- Penalties on the Halifax side are two for holding, five for fighting and a game to Ben Clarke, fighting and a game to Justin Belanger, fighting to Travis Perry and a 10-minute misconduct to Dylan King. To Amherst, Chipman five for fighting, Mercer five for fighting and a game, five for fighting and a game to Herrett, and a 10-minute misconduct to Justin Matthews. All this at 5:55. Amherst on a power play.

9 p.m. -- And it's 5-2 as Jeremy Barron wires a wrister over Blois's blocker at 7:43. Assists to Trevor Layton and Drew McLaughlin. Power play goal. 5-2 Lions

9:03 p.m. -- 10 minutes left. Any histrionics now could mean suspensions, so we'll see what happens.

9:04 p.m. -- Scott Bragg and Kyle Mariani jaw after a whistle, and now we're got two fights. Tanner Manson sends Yohann Mathieu to the ice early in their bout, and Kody Orr and Kyle Dilosa square off in a fairly even tilt. This coming at 10:38.

9:07 p.m. -- Interesting to see the reaction on the benches following this. Troy Ryan is just giving it to his team on the Halifax side, while the Ramblers bench doesn't have a pulse.

9:10 p.m -- Dilosa and Orr are done for the night. Still waiting for the official announcement.

9:10 p.m. -- For Halifax: Manson five for fighting, Dilosa two for slashing, five for fighting and a game misconduct. For Amherstt: Mathieu two for roughing after the whistle plus five for fighting, Orr five for fighing and a game. So no man advantage.

9:12 p.m. -- Robbie Verikier off for holding at 11:22, and the Ramblers cut the deficit to two 17 seconds into the power play. Derek Smith with the goal, from Trevor Layton and Kodi Estey. 5-3 Lions

9:14 p.m. -- Stuart Lenehan down on the ice and clutching at his throat, and Shane O'Byrne is going off for roughing at 12:52. Didn't see the incident, as it was behind the play, but Lenehan is gasping for air as he heads off. Security dealing with an incident in the stands at the far end of the rink, where a lot of the leather lungs are residing.

9:17 p.m. -- And Halifax scores five seconds in to the PP, as Wayne Bedecki's point shot beats Waye clean low on the glove side. Assist to Travis Perry at 12:56. 6-3 Lions

9:18 p.m. -- Scott Bragg gets the elbow up on Michael Roski , but no call. Roski is slow to get up, and when he does, he makes sure the ref is skating the other way before delivering a vicious two-hander to the back of the knees of another Rambler (didn't see who). Ryan letting Roski have it on the bench. That could be a reviewable offence.

9:21 p.m. -- Shane O'Byrne with a scoring chance, puck comes back to Drew McLaughlin and he can't handle it, so it's a two-on-one the other way. Ramblers draw the initial minor, but Halifax retaliates and it's five-on-five. Ryan Matheson with the initial call for holding, and Robbie Veriker with roughing after the whistle at 15:46.

9:22 p.m. -- And Halifax scores again off the draw at 15:52. Brendan Taylor with the redirect of Andrew Wigginton's shot, second assist to Wayne Bedecki. 7-3 Lions. Jeremy Barron shoots the puck down the ice after the goal, and gets a 10-minute misconduct.

9:23 p.m. -- Halifax with a 30-second timeout. Ryan really imploring his team to stop the nonsense.

9:27 p.m. -- Simon Bissonnette bangs in a rebound at 18:15. Derek Smith and Josh Coleman with the assists. 7-4 Lions

9:27 p.m. -- And now Mathieu and Manson go in a rematch. Not much happening there. Mathieu throws a helmet in frustration in Manson's direction as he skates off, and Arsenault puts his hands to his hips right away. Manson gets five for fighting and Mathieu gets fighting and a misconduct.

9:30 p.m. -- Final minute of regulation.

9:31 p.m. -- Peter Baldwin with a nice backhand shot that finds a hole past Blois with 17.5 seconds left. Assists to Josh Coleman and Derek Smith. 7-5 Lions

9:32 p.m. -- And it's over. Shots 11-7 Amherst in the third, 38-28 Lions for the night.

Three stars -- 1. Travis Perry, Halifax; 2. Dylan King, Halifax; 3. Trevor Layton, Amherst.

Final thoughts -- There will likely be two schools of thought among Rambler fans after this one.

There's the side that says the Ramblers had fallen so far behind that all they had left was trying to settle things with their fists, and the game descended into utter nonsense. And that is a valid argument, as Amherst took way too many penalties in the second period and it cost them the game, and Jon Waye likely should not have finished that contest.

But for a team that has struggled to find positives for three months, and with a winless December staring them square in the face heading into that third period, perhaps the time had come to blow off some steam and the pressure valve was released. It could be the bonding moment where players expressed the desire to fight for each other, to stand up for themselves and not get pushed around in their own building. And those looking for positives will also note that the Ramblers outscored Halifax 4-2 in the third -- the game had been all but decided at that point, but a four-goal third period for this team is a positive, no matter what the scenario.

With two weeks off and a chance to recharge the batteries, the first few games in January will tell the story. Either this game becomes the turning point for this team to save its season, or it will mark the beginning of the end.

Derek Smith, on whether he'd consider a trade to a championship contender: "It's in the back of my head. I'm going to school in Springhill, so that's something I'd have to juggle. I'd have to think about it."

jjewers@amherstdaily.com

Organizations: Halifax, Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, Capitals Maritime Junior A Hockey League

Geographic location: Forward Brandon Street, Pictou County, Bragg Springhill

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