Ramblers down Lions 6-4

Jody Jewers
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AMHERST -- The Ramblers (13-20-1-1) defeated the Halifax Lions (12-14-3-0) 6-4 on Saturday night in Maritime Junior A Hockey League action at the Stadium.

Following is the live blog transcript.

Pre-game notes -- The Lions are in the middle of a brutal stretch in their schedule, with 11 games in 17 days between Jan. 7 and 24. Halifax is playing its third of four games in consecutive nights, having travelled to Yarmouth 24 hours ago to lose 6-5 to the host Mariners in overtime. The Lions lost 4-3 at home to the Miramichi Timberwolves on Thursday.

Amherst sits one point back of fifth-place Halifax, and four behind fourth-place Yarmouth in the Bent Division. Yarmouth is in Truro to take on the Bent Division-leading Bearcats tonight. The Ramblers are in the middle of a five-games-in-eight-days stretch, beating Bridgewater 8-4 on Tuesday to snap an eight-game losing skid, then extending their road losing slide to 12 games with a 3-1 setback in New Glasgow to Pictou County on Thursday.

As of this writing, the Ramblers have not made any moves with the league trade deadline a little more than 24 hours away. In a brief pre-game conversation, head coach and general manager Corey Crocker said no deals are expected tonight, but did say "maybe Sunday." Amherst plays in Truro tomorrow.

Halifax was active on the trade front today, picking up Blake Hayes and Jordan Kenny from Pictou County in exchange for a sixth-round draft pick in 2011 plus future considerations.

The MJAHL issued a five-game suspension to Bridgewater forward Taite Paul on Friday for his actions in Tuesday's loss in Amherst. Paul punched a linesman in the head while trying to get at Ramblers forward Scott Bragg with 4:14 left in the third period. Bragg checked Paul earlier in that shift (looked like Bragg got the elbow up, but otherwise a clean hit). Both players received fighting majors, Paul got a match penalty and Bragg received a minor for boarding.

Halifax has won all four meetings with Amherst this season, outscoring the Ramblers 22-9.

6:30 p.m. -- Teams out for the warm-up. Lions only have 16 skaters, having lost Andrew Wigginton, Ian Saab, Stephen Woodworth and Brad MacDonald to Quebec major junior clubs. With Kody Orr, Wes Herrett and Brandon Mercer returning from suspensions stemming from the last time these teams met (Dec. 19 in Amherst), the Ramblers are carrying 23 bodies, the maximum allowed once Sunday's deadline passes. Sitting out tonight are Kodi Estey, Yohann Mathieu and Trevor Layton. Ben Clarke, Kyle Dilosa and Justin Belanger of Halifax were also suspended in the Dec. 19 game, and all three are in the lineup tonight.

In goal tonight are Ben Clarke for Halifax and Jon Waye for Amherst, making his ninth straight start. Clarke hasn't started since Nov. 20. He played nine minutes in relief on Dec. 10. In all four previous meetings this season, Kody Blois has gotten the call for the Lions.

*** There are two Ben Clarkes on the Halifax roster. The one that was suspended Dec. 19 is a forward. ***

Referee tonight is Mark Hulshof.

7:04 p.m. -- Puck has dropped and we're underway. First line for Amherst is Jeremy Barron-Adam Chipman-Peter Baldwin, with Derek Smith and Eric Boudreau on defence.

7:05 p.m. -- Other line combos for the Ramblers have Jonathan Pardy with Justin Matthews and Brandon Street, Kody Orr alongside Scott Bragg and Mitchell O'Neill, and Simon Bissonnette with Josh Coleman and Shane O'Byrne. Other defensive units are Ryan Matheson and Drew McLaughlin, and Wes Herrett and Brandon Mercer.

7:07 p.m. -- Dylan King with a giveaway in his own end, and Bissonnette sets up Coleman for a scoring chance.

7:11 p.m. -- Game's first penalty goes to Amherst. Derek Smith stripped of the puck in the neutral zone, then tugs on a jersey to stop an odd-man rush. He'll sit for hooking at 4:25.

7:12 p.m. -- And just like that, the Lions capitalize. Kyle Dilosa camped out at the side of the net and deposits a feed from Brandon Taylor at 4:49. Waye had no chance on that. Second assist to Travis Perry. 1-0 Lions

7:16 p.m. -- 13:01 left in the period. Shots 5-3 Halifax.

7:18 p.m. -- Scrum in front of the Amherst net with three Lions outmanning two Ramblers at the point of attack. Puck bounces to Robbie Veriker and he lifts it past Waye before he could pick it up in a maze of skates at 7:49. Assists to Kyle Mariani and John MacDonald. 2-0 Lions

7:19 p.m. -- Lions take their first penalty, with Steven Popovich called for high-sticking at 8:10.

7:22 p.m. -- Penalty over. Ramblers with a good chance late, but otherwise not much to speak of.

7:23 p.m. -- Chipman with a burst of speed to outrace a Lion defender to a loose puck, but Clarke flashes the glove to snare a low shot.

7:26 p.m. -- Ramblers having all kinds of trouble on their breakouts, as the Lions are doing a very effective job shutting down passing lanes.

7:27 p.m. -- Smith pinches in and gets the puck to the front of the Halifax net, but Clarke covers up quickly with several dark sweaters lurking.

7:30 p.m. -- Street sent into the boards near the Halifax bench from behind by Dilosa. Fans want a call, but none forthcoming.

7:31 p.m. -- Smith trying to create more offence again with a wraparound chance, but Clarke slides over and knocks the net off its moorings while making the save.

7:32 p.m. -- Chipman with another burst of speed to get by a Halifax defender and might have a partial breakaway, but overskates the puck.

7:33 p.m. -- 1:38 to go. Facoff to Clarke's left.

7:34 p.m. -- Hulshof sees Barron cross-check Brandon Taylor near the Amherst bench, and he goes off at 19:06. Very similar situation to the sequence with Street that wasn't called.

7:35 p.m. -- Kody Orr with a shorthanded chance and thinks he's scored, but no goal.

7:36 p.m. -- Period over. Shots 11-10 Halifax.

After 20 minutes -- Lions don't look at all tired after travelling from one end of the province to the other and playing their third straight game, and have capitalized on their chances while the Ramblers have not. Amherst needs to be better in its transition game -- get the puck in deep and wear down the defence to create scoring chances, something they weren't consistent enough at in this period.

7:51 p.m. -- Second period underway. 1:05 left in Barron's minor.

7:52 p.m. -- Penalty over. Good kill of the second half of that penalty by Amherst, as Halifax never got the puck in the offensive zone.

7:53 p.m. -- Chipman-Street-Matthews now together, and they put the Ramblers on the board. Matthews parked in front of the net and slides home a rebound off a Ryan Matheson shot at 1:50. Second assist to Chipman. 2-1 Lions

7:54 p.m. -- From the ensuing faceoff, Kody Orr charges down the ice and tries to jab a backhander home, but runs out of room.

7:55 p.m. -- Ramblers have picked up the pace. The unit of Pardy-Baldwin-Barron is buzzing around the Halifax net.

7:55 p.m. -- Baldwin with the tip of a Derek Smith point shot, but it goes right into Clarke's chest.

7:57 p.m. -- Ramblers caught standing still in their own end, and Wes Herrett nabbed for hooking at 3:43.

8 p.m. -- Penalty over.

8:01 p.m. -- Good shift from the fourth line of Bissonnette-Coleman-O'Byrne, doing what the Ramblers need to do -- pucks deep and forecheck hard.

8:02 p.m. -- Matthews almost had Chipman sprung on a breakaway, but the pass was about six inches too far ahead.

8:05 p.m. -- And Amherst has tied it. Josh Coleman creates a turnover, puck comes back to Drew McLaughlin at the point, and Kody Orr at the end of his shift gets a redirect just inside the near post at 10:19. 2-2. Goal was announced as Ryan Matheson from Drew McLaughlin and Simon Bissonnette, but Orr definitely tipped it in and Coleman deserves an assist.

8:08 p.m. -- Ramblers have now taken the lead, as Clarke can't catch all of Shane O'Byrne's slapper from inside the faceoff circle at 12:02. Assist to Drew McLaughlin. 3-2 Ramblers

8:09 p.m. -- Halifax takes its timeout now. Wise call, as the Lions have lost any momentum they carried into the dressing room. Shots in the period are 13-4 Amherst.

8:10 p.m. -- Orr almost scores again, hitting the post on a rebound.

8:11 p.m. -- O'Byrne bats down a rebound with a high stick, and the faceoff comes outside the Halifax zone with 6:45 to go.

8:12 p.m. -- Coleman continuing his fine play this period, drawing a penalty when Michael Roski hauls him down in the Halifax crease. Call is interference at 13:52. Roski yaps and it's a double minor with unsportsmanlike conduct on top. Big chance for Amherst to really bury the Lions here.

8:15 p.m. -- First minor is over. Ramblers with good pressure to start the minor, but haven't been able to get their PP set up the last minute or so.

8:17 p.m. -- Minor is over. Big kill for Halifax, as Amherst couldn't get anything going during the second minor penalty.

8:18 p.m. -- Chipman-Matthews-Street line with a flurry as Roski is back on the ice, Matthews almost with a tip-in, but Clarke covers up.

8:19 p.m. -- Good heads-up play by Ryan Matheson. Clarke had to race a good 20 feet out of his net to cover up a loose puck with Shane O'Byrne bearing down on him, losing his stick in the process. Play continues and Clarke scrambles back to his net with a teammate kicking his stick back to him. He has trouble picking it up, but recovers just in time to stop Matheson's slapshot from centre ice.

8:21 p.m. -- Scott Bragg called for tripping with 17.2 seconds left in the period. Halifax on the PP.

8:22 p.m. -- Period over. Shots 21-5 Amherst in the second, 31-16 Ramblers through two.

After 40 minutes -- Complete turnaround in momentum, as the hosts have seized control of this one and the Lions are now looking like a team that has done a lot of travelling and playing in a compressed timeframe. The next goal is the big one -- Amherst gets it and starts to bury Halifax, or the Lions get it and are re-energized after squandering a two-goal lead.

8:38 p.m. -- Third period underway. 1:42 left in Bragg's penalty.

8:39 p.m. -- Kody Orr blocks a slapshot with his left hand, sending his glove flying. He's getting looked at on the Amherst bench.

8:40 p.m. -- Waye kicks out a pad to just get a piece of a point shot and steer it wide. Penalty is now over.

8:42 p.m. -- Ramblers have increased their lead. Chipman with a great pass from behind the Halifax net through the crease to Matthews, who buries it top shelf before Clarke can slide across at 2:52. Brandon Mercer with the second assist. 4-2 Ramblers

8:44 p.m. -- More good work from the fourth line, as Derek Smith's stretch pass is converted to a scoring chance for Simon Bissonnette.

8:45 p.m. -- Orr back out there with Bragg and O'Neill.

8:46 p.m. -- Halifax back on the PP, as Drew McLaughlin is called for interference at 5:39.

8:47 p.m. -- Lions are within one. Wayne Bedecki left unchecked at the side of the net, and his shot goes upstairs before Waye can get across at 6:51. Brandon Taylor with the assist. Halifax's second power-play goal. 4-3 Ramblers

8:49 p.m. -- First line with another chance. Matthews' wrister goes into Clarke's chest, forcing a faceoff.

8:50 p.m. -- Pardy forces a turnover at his team's blueline, starting a two-on-one and a scoring chance for Peter Baldwin.

8:50 p.m. -- Ramblers shorthanded again. Shane O'Byrne called for hooking at 8:09.

8:52 p.m. -- Waye with a tremendous glove save on a point shot. Rebound lies agonizingly close to the goal line before getting swept away.

8:53 p.m. -- Penalty is over, and O'Byrne is sprung on a breakaway coming out of the box, but can't go upstairs on the deke attempt.

8:54 p.m. -- 9:23 to go. Faceoff to Clarke's left.

8:55 p.m. -- Matthews with a massive marker to restore the two-goal cushion at 10:49, as his laser from a bad angle goes over top of Clarke's glove hand, completing the hat trick. Brandon Street and Peter Baldwin with the assists. 5-3 Ramblers

8:57 p.m. -- The Bissonnette-Coleman-O'Byrne line continuing to play very well tonight, doing the little things well which has led to scoring chances and, more importantly, kept Halifax from counter-attacking.

8:59 p.m. -- And now it's Jonathan Pardy's first bout since returning to the lineup, taking on Robbie Veriker. Pardy peppering him with rights early, but Veriker gets the jersey over Pardy's head and fires back. Pardy uses his superior size and strength to lift Veriker up and slam him to the ice, and the linesmen step in. Fighting majors at 13:56.

9:01 p.m. -- Brandon Street delivers what might be the death blow, outworking a Halifax defender to get some space and deposit an Adam Chipman pass home for his first goal as a Rambler. Second assist to Mitchell O'Neill at 14:53. 6-3 Ramblers

9:03 p.m. -- 4:23 to go. Shots are 9-4 Amherst in the period.

9:05 p.m. -- Ramblers not letting up. Orr with another scoring chance, but Clarke stops him.

9:08 p.m. -- Amherst on the PP with 1:30 left. Stuart Lenehan called for hooking.

9:09 p.m. -- Halifax catches a break, as a point shot pinballs off a leg and goes in with 59 seconds left. Shorthanded goal to Justin Belanger. Assists to Kyle Mariani and Wayne Bedecki. 6-4 Ramblers

9:10 p.m. -- Game over. Shots 13-8 Ramblers in the third, 44-24 Amherst for the night.

Three stars -- 1. Justin Matthews, Amherst; 2. Adam Chipman, Amherst; 3. Ben Clarke, Halifax (the goaltender).

Final thoughts -- Yes, the Lions were playing their third game in a row. Yes, they have been dealt some major personnel losses. And yes, they started their backup goalie. But for a team that will have to fight for its playoff life the rest of the season, a win is a win, and the Ramblers deserved the two points based on their play in the final 40 minutes. Moving Chipman to a line with Matthews and Street paid major dividends, as it gives this team a bona fide top unit. All four lines contributed tonight. Special teams weren't the greatest for the hosts, but they didn't need to be once Amherst started playing dump-and-chase, grind-it-out hockey.

Ramblers head to Truro on deadline day Sunday at 7 p.m. Any breaking news on trades will be posted on amherstdaily.com.

jjewers@amherstdaily.com

Organizations: Halifax, Maritime Junior A Hockey League, Bent Division Barron's

Geographic location: AMHERST, Truro, Pictou County Brandon Street New Glasgow Quebec Chipman-Street

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