Bearcats blank Ramblers 6-0

Jody Jewers
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AMHERST -- The Ramblers (15-23-1-1) were blanked 6-0 by the Truro Bearcats (26-4-2-2) in Maritime Junior A Hockey League action Friday night at the Stadium.

Following is the live blog transcript.

Pre-game notes -- Halifax has been awarded two points from Tuesday's game against Pictou County because the Crushers used an ineligible player -- callup Brent Turnbull had been serving a suspension in the Nova Scotia major midget league. That means Amherst is now four points behind Halifax, which moved into a tie for third in the Bent Division with Bridgewater. Those clubs are playing each other this evening ... Truro's Dana Fraser is riding a nine-game point-scoring streak. The league's leading scorer has six goals and 14 assists during that span ... Amherst's Justin Matthews is on a five-game scoring streak (five goals, eight assists).

7 p.m. -- Teams out for the warm-up. Scott Bragg wearing a full cage after taking that stick in the teeth from Woodstock's Branden Kosolofsky six days ago. Brandon Mercer and Shane O'Byrne are not dressed for Amherst. Donnie Churchill, Dylan McGuigan, Matt Lundrigan and Shawn Wright are scratched for Truro.

Starting goalies are Richard Gagnon for Truro and Jon Waye for Amherst.

Referee tonight is Tim Connors.

7:35 p.m. -- Puck has dropped and we're underway. First line for Amherst of Justin Matthews centering Brandon Street and Jeremy Barron. Ryan Matheson paired with Eric Boudreau on defence.

7:36 p.m. -- Other line combos for Amherst are Scott Bragg with Kody Orr and Mitchell O'Neill, Peter Baldwin with Jonathan Pardy and Josh Coleman, and Trevor Layton with Kodi Estey and Simon Bissonnette . Wes Herrett and Drew McLaughlin are the second defensive pairing, with Yohann Mathieu rotated in.

7:41 p.m. -- Very quick pace to start this one. Not many whistles. Both teams skating hard. Truro with an excellent blend of size, speed and skill.

7:43 p.m. -- Simon Bissonnette bulls his way to the front of the Truro net, and Kodi Estey is on the doorstep looking for a rebound, but Gagnon sweeps the puck to the corner before Estey can reach it.

7:45 p.m. -- Gagnon nearly beaten on a dump in, as the puck is rolling and takes a weird bounce, forcing him to do the splits to get a toe on it.

7:47 p.m. -- 11:03 left in the period. Shots 5-3 Amherst.

7:49 p.m. -- Great read from Scott Bragg to find Ryan Matheson jumping into the play. Matheson left unchecked and gets away a shot on goal.

7:52 p.m. -- More good hustle from Matheson, skating hard to get back on an odd-man rush and disrupt a Truro scoring chance.

7:55 p.m. -- Cole Hawes goes just offside for Truro, or that would've been a two-on-one. 6:00 left.

7:58 p.m. -- Truro playing a 2-3 zone, with two wingers in deep and the centre almost at the blueline with the defencemen. Big reason why this team gives up less than two goals per game.

8:01 p.m. -- Eric Louis-Seize with a centering pass that deflects off Yohann Mathieu's skate, but Jon Waye flicks out a pad to steer it aside.

8:03 p.m. -- Game's first penalty goes to Amherst's Scott Bragg for unsportsmanlike conduct at 18:09. Not sure what he did, as he was on the bench at the time. Kodi Estey, for some reason, is serving the minor.

8:05 p.m. -- Gagnon almost caught out of position again as the Ramblers ice the puck, with Kody Orr almost scoring shorthanded. Orr comes back and blocks a shot at the other end. Great sequence there.

8:06 p.m. -- First period over. Shots 14-11 Truro. Eight seconds to go in the Bragg minor.

After 20 minutes -- Great up-tempo hockey. Both teams skating hard and staying disciplined, sticking to game plans and rarely getting caught out of position. Once again, playing the Bearcats seems to bring out the best in the Ramblers, who are matching a championship-contending club stride for stride. Still wondering what Bragg did to earn that penalty.

8:21 p.m. -- Second period has begun. Bragg now in the box for the rest of his penalty.

8:21 p.m. -- Teams at even strength.

8:21 p.m. -- Dana Fraser with an NHL-calibre goal -- breaks in and cuts across the grain and wires an absolute laser beam over Waye's glove and into the top corner at 56 seconds. Amazing wrist shot from Fraser. Assists to Eric Louis-Seize and Jordan Mock. 1-0 Bearcats

8:23 p.m. -- Amherst with a chance to respond, as Truro's Jamie MacIntyre goes off for hooking at 1:22.

8:25 p.m. -- Penalty over. Ramblers with a couple of chances, but Truro's PK isn't letting them get established.

8:29 p.m. -- Tempo still quick after the goal. Ramblers not wavering from the game plan, but you get the sense that if Truro scores the next goal, that should be enough for them to win based on their defence-first philosophy.

8:31 p.m. -- Ramblers with their best chance to score so far, a three-on-two, but Gagnon is there for an initial save and a rebound chance.

8:33 p.m. -- 10:58 left in the period. Shots 7-2 Amherst in the second.

8:35 p.m. -- Truro increases the lead. Yuri Cheremetiev gets the puck on a one-timer from the faceoff dot, and Waye has no chance at 10:46. Assists to Chris Ivanko and Cole Hawes. 2-0 Bearcats

8:36 p.m. -- Ramblers absolutely need the next goal -- as that is typed, Mitchell O'Neill rings a shot off the crossbar.

8:39 p.m. -- Amherst running around in its own end, and Eric Boudreau forced to ice the puck to relieve the pressure. 7:09 left in the period.

8:42 p.m. -- Kodi Estey with some great work at the end of a long shift. Forces a Truro defender off the puck and is in alone, but Gagnon stops his wrist shot. Really good work from that fourth line as a whole on that sequence, as the Bearcats were pinned in their zone for about 90 seconds.

8:43 p.m. -- 3:42 left in the period. Faceoff to Gagnon's right.

8:46 p.m. -- Ramblers still working hard. Jonathan Pardy goes hard to the net from the corner and is pushed into Gagnon, but no one can lift a rebound home with a maze of bodies in the crease area.

8:47 p.m. -- More furious action. Ryan Matheson hits Gagnon in the mask with a wrister on a pinch-in pass from Justin Matthews. At the other end, Waye makes his best save of the night, sliding across to stop Cole Hawes.

8:48 p.m. -- Period over. Shots 19-7 Amherst in the second, 30-21 Ramblers through two.

After 40 minutes -- Ramblers outworked Truro in that period, but weren't rewarded on the scoreboard. Championship-calibre clubs get goals the way the Bearcats got theirs, on two shots any goalie in any league would have a hard time stopping, and Gagnon has held the fort. Maintain that work ethic for 20 more minutes and the hosts can walk away with their heads held high, win or lose.

9:03 p.m. -- Third period has started.

9:08 p.m. -- Drew McLaughlin tries an open-ice hit, but the Truro attacker gets his hands up and McLaughlin goes down holding his face. Might've caught a stick there. He's being looked at on the bench.

9:10 p.m. -- McLaughlin back out there.

9:12 p.m. -- Simon Bissonnette with a chance on a pass from Trevor Layton, but shoots it into Gagnon's chest.

9:14 p.m. -- 11:30 left in the period. Faceoff to Gagnon's left.

9:15 p.m. -- Justin Matthews with a glorious chance on the backhand off a feed from Brandon Street, but Gagnon stops it. Rebound flies up into the air, but Gagnon swats that away.

9:16 p.m. -- More good pressure from Amherst's fourth line. Ramblers doing all the right things but Gagnon is holding his ground.

9:18 p.m. -- Bearcats with some pressure at the other end. Puck rolls around in the crease before Waye, on his belly, pushes it to the corner.

9:19 p.m. -- Truro with a backbreaker. Chris Ivanko alone in the slot and his shot sails over the net, bouncing right to Brett Frazee, who slides it inside the near post before Waye can get over. Assists to Ivanko and Cole Hawes at 11:37. 3-0 Bearcats

9:21 p.m. -- Bearcats keep coming. Eric Louis-Seize's wrister goes right into Waye's chest, but pops out and slides toward the net. Jordan Mock races in and pushes it across the line at 12;28. Assists to Louis-Seize and Dana Fraser. 4-0 Bearcats

9:22 p.m. -- Truro pouring it on. Scramble in front of Waye and the puck isn't cleared. Travis Moore taps it home at 13:27, from Yuri Cheremetiev and Andrew Harmes. 5-0 Bearcats.

9:22 p.m. -- Devon Cudmore now in goal for Amherst.

9:27 p.m. -- 3:03 to go. Faceoff to Cudmore's left.

9:29 p.m. -- Amherst's Yohann Mathieu called for elbowing at 18:22. Just the third penalty of the game.

9:30 p.m. -- In the final minute now.

9:31 p.m. -- Cudmore can't corral a wrist shot, and Travis Moore puts a rebound in at 19:26. Assists to Brett Frazee and Andrew Harmes. Power play goal. 6-0 Bearcats

9:32 p.m. -- Game over. Shots 9-9 in the third, 39-30 Ramblers for the game.

Three stars -- 1. Richard Gagnon, Truro; 2. Travis Moore, Truro; 3. Brandon Street, Amherst.

Final thoughts -- The scoreboard says one thing, but for 50 minutes, this was an excellent hockey game and a winable one for the home side. Waye could only be faulted for the fourth goal -- an argument can be made for the fifth, but the Ramblers stopped skating ever so briefly once Frazee made it 3-0, and you can't do that against a team of this calibre. The goal Cudmore gave up wasn't a good one either, but forgiveable given how sporadically he has played and the tough situation he was put in. Richard Gagnon played very well after a bit of a shaky start, and the Bearcats have all the elements in place to go deep into the playoffs, while the young Ramblers are learning valuable lessons for next season.

Around the league -- Bridgewater defeated Halifax 6-4, so Amherst remains four points behind Halifax for fourth in the Bent Division. Bridgewater moves back into sole possession of third. Pictou County won 6-4 in Campbellton, with former Rambler Derek Smith scoring for the victors.

Ramblers host the Summerside Western Capitals on Saturday at the Stadium at 7 p.m.

Organizations: Halifax, Bent Division, Maritime Junior A Hockey League NHL Summerside Western Capitals

Geographic location: Pictou County, Brandon Street, Nova Scotia Campbellton

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