Ramblers playoff push heading into home stretch

Jody Jewers
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AMHERST - The six-month marathon that is the Maritime Junior A Hockey League regular season is now down to a less-than-six-week sprint.
The Ramblers have picked themselves up after heading in reverse for three months and have managed to stay afloat in the race for a Bent Division playoff berth. But they need help at this point, having played at least three more games than any other team in the division heading into weekend action.
Amherst has a pair of quality opponents to deal with on Stadium ice. The Bent Division-leading Truro Bearcats are in town today at 7:30 p.m., and the reigning Eastern Canadian champion Summerside Western Capitals visit the next day at 7 p.m.
"We need to play with the same sense of urgency and desperation we played with last week," said Ramblers head coach and general manager Corey Crocker. "When we keep our intensity level high, stay focused, skate hard and play physical, that's when we're at our best."
Amherst is playing its best hockey since winning five of six starts in September. The Ramblers are 4-3 this month and are averging more than five goals per contest.
They've rallied to win from four goals down with 15 minutes left against the Dieppe Commandos, filled the net with 16 goals in their last two meetings with the Bridgewater Lumberjacks, and led for almost 45 minutes against the nationally No. 7-ranked Woodstock Slammers before two quick goals midway through the third period proved to be their downfall.
The young Ramblers, with an average age of barely 18 years, have rallied in the face of the club trading 20-year-old leaders Adam Chipman and Derek Smith, and the addition of forwards Brandon Street and Jonathan Pardy have been a big reason why.
Street has nine points in six games since deciding to leave the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League's Victoriaville Tigres, and has become a catalyst on the Ramblers' top line with Justin Matthews and Jeremy Barron.
Pardy, at six-foot-four and 230 pounds, provides some added muscle up front and has a goal and an assist in seven starts since returning from offseason shoulder surgery.
"It's been a really good move for me to come here," Street said. "They have a good hockey club here and I'm happy to be part of it.
"I didn't know a lot about (Chipman and Smith) when I got here, but they were great leaders on the ice and in the (dressing) room, and guys have picked up their game since they left and now we're finding out we have some new leaders on this team."
The Halifax Lions moved three points up on Amherst for fourth place in the Bent with a 7-1 rout of the Yarmouth Mariners last night. Yarmouth stays in the Bent basement, two points back of Amherst. Halifax is now one point behind third-place Bridgewater. The fourth- and fifth-place finishers in the Bent will play a best-of-three mini-series to start the postseason.
After this weekend, the Ramblers will have nine games left - three with Truro (two home, one road), three with Meek Division doormat Campbellton (two home, one road), two against playoff-bound Miramichi (one home, one road), and a make-up road game with Pictou County that has yet to be rescheduled.
"We can only take care of the games we play," Crocker said. "Our guys know every game from here on in is important, and we have to make the most of them.
"We're a team building for the future, so this is great experience for our guys to be playing under pressure. We could've easily rolled over after (the trade deadline) Jan. 10, but our kids have shown great character and work ethic and will keep pushing hard until the end."
INJURY?UPDATE - Crocker says his team will be at full strength heading into the weekend. Forward Scott Bragg will wear a full cage after taking a stick in the mouth from Slammers forward Branden Kosolofsky, cracking three teeth and opening up a four-stitch gash. Forward Simon Bissonnette (groin) and defenceman Brandon Mercer (concussion) are also expected to return.

jjewers@amherstdaily.com

Organizations: Bent Division, Maritime Junior A Hockey League, Quebec Major Junior Hockey League

Geographic location: Brandon Street, Pictou County

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  • Vince
    February 24, 2010 - 23:46

    Very exciting team to watch as they push for a playoff spot in their division. They definitely have a chance and let's hope for the best.


    GO RAMBLERS GO