By Jody Jewers
SPRINGHILL It wasnt pretty, but the Cumberland County Blues have clinched first overall in the Nova Scotia Junior Hockey League for the third straight season.
Cumberland lost 4-3 in a shootout to the Strait Pirates on Sunday, but the point earned in defeat pulled the Blues four ahead of the St. Margarets Bay Ducks with each team having two games left in the regular season.
Cumberland holds the tiebreaker with St. Margarets Bay based on head-to-head results. The Blues beat the Ducks 4-3 on Oct. 10 and lost 6-5 in a shootout on Oct. 16.
It was the second straight loss for the Blues on home ice. The Antigonish Bulldogs handed Cumberland a 7-5 setback Friday.
Our group right now is having a hard time focusing on playing a full 60 minutes, Blues head coach Dave Hyatt said. Were playing well in spurts.
We had a poor first period today and it was the same thing Friday. We turned the puck over too many times, and were taking too many undisciplined penalties.
In fairness, the Blues havent had much to play for recently, having sewn up their division title a month ago. The overall crown, which means home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs, became more of a goal when Cumberland went on a 19-game winning streak.
Weve actually been decidedly better on the road, so its not a huge deal, said Hyatt. Its a nice feather in our cap, though.
Ryan Smith scored twice against Strait, and Zach Carson chipped in a goal and an assist. Tyler Ferdinand took the loss in goal, stopping 21 shots.
On Friday, Jared Wilson and Cody Roach netted two goals apiece for the Blues. Carson had another goal and an assist, and Ryan Smith picked up a pair of helpers. Andrew Court made 20 saves in the Cumberland net.
The Blues wrap up their regular season Wednesday in Antigonish and Friday at home to Pictou County, a probable first-round playoff opponent.
Some guys have been out a while, so we have to get them some game action, Hyatt said. Well try to find that fine line between getting healthy and staying sharp.
By Jody Jewers