AMHERST - You could almost hear the collective sigh of relief on the Ramblers bench and from the 675 fans in the Stadium stands Saturday when Eric Boudreau scored.
Boudreau's goal with 6:12 left in the third period proved to be valuable insurance in his team's 3-1 Maritime Junior A Hockey League victory over the Campbellton Tigers. Amherst never trailed, but a Campbellton lineup with 14 rookies threw a scare into the Ramblers' push for a Bent Division playoff berth, getting as close as 2-1 with 11:44 to go.
"It certainly felt good," said Amherst defenceman Ryan Matheson, whose power-play goal 11:22 into the middle frame held up as the game-winner. "Tonight wasn't pretty, but we got the job done."
The Ramblers were guilty at times of playing down to the level of a team with just six wins on the season coming into the game. But the first line of Brandon Street, Jeremy Barron and Justin Matthews carried much of the load offensively, and Ramblers goaltender Jon Waye held the fort, making 38 saves.
Barron opened scoring 4:51 into the second period and was named the game's first star, and Boudreau the second.
"I played (in Campbellton) last year, and it was the same way," Matheson said.
"They know they're rebuilding and they have nothing to lose, so they just go out every night and give it their all."
The bottom line for the Ramblers is that they've put a horrendous three months behind them and continue to push for a playoff spot despite trading Adam Chipman and Derek Smith to Pictou County on Jan. 10. Amherst went 6-4 in January, its best month since a 5-0-0-1 September.
"All four lines are playing really well," said Street, who has 12 points in nine games since leaving the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League's Victoriaville Tigres. "Matthews and Barron are really good with the puck, and I just try my best to get into the open and help set up those two guys to score."
Amherst pulled to within two points of the fourth-place Halifax Lions in the Bent Division. The Lions have 11 games left to the Ramblers' eight. The bordertowners are on the road twice this week, heading to Campbellton on Friday and Miramichi to meet the Timberwolves the next night.
The next home game for Amherst is Feb. 12 against Truro.
NOTES - Matthews wore the C as the team continues to rotate the captain's duties since dealing Chipman ... Kodi Estey was a healthy scratch with Jonathan Pardy returning to the lineup. Pardy assisted on Boudreau's goal ... Matthews finished with 19 points for the month (10 goals, nine assists). Barron has 14 points (five goals, nine assists) in his last six games.