Ramblers’ playoff run ends

Lose division final in five games to arch rival Truro

Published on April 11, 2017

Chad Bannister of the Amherst CIBC Wood Gundy Ramblers goes down to block a shot from Truro's Jarrod Shipley in MHL playoff action on Monday. Truro won the game 5-4 and took the series in five games.

©Joey Smith - TC Media

TRURO, N.S. – After coming back twice, the Amherst CIBC Wood Gundy Ramblers couldn’t do it a third time dropping a 5-4 decision to the Truro Bearcats in MHL Eastlink South Division final series action on Monday.

With the win, the Bearcats won the division title in five games as well as the Nova Scotia Junior A Hockey Championship and will move on to face the Miramichi Timberwolves in the MHL final.
“The boys gave it all they had,” Ramblers coach Jeff LeBlanc said. “We just couldn’t get that tying goal. I said a long time ago that if the boys gave the effort and laid it all on the line they would never hear me complain. They did everything they could and they fought right to the end. They had opportunities to score, but just couldn’t bury them.”
Truro, which won its third division title in four years, got on the board early scoring twice in the first four minutes with Kyle Tibbo and Daniel Little beating Rambler goalie Daryl MacCallum.
Matt Lapointe on a breakaway and Jordan King on a deflection tied it for the Ramblers before the period ended.
Brandon Hughes scored shorthanded just 1:20 into the second period before Lapointe again tied it on the same power play.
Leon Denny’s seeing-eye shot from the point eluded MacCallum 11:23 into the second period to restore Truro’s lead and it would stand as the game-winner.
Nic Blanchard extended the lead to 5-3 on the power play at the 9:08 mark of the third before Connor Vermeulen made it interesting with a rocket from the top of the circle with just over four minutes to play.
The Ramblers had sustained pressure on the Bearcats in the final minute, but Bearcats goalie Jason Rioux made several key stops, including one from point-blank range with three seconds to go as the Bearcats held on for the win.
“I really thought if we got it back to Amherst (on Tuesday) there would’ve been a Game 7 and in Game 7 you could flip a coin to pick a winner,” LeBlanc said. “At the end, looking back, we gave them two games and you can’t a team like that such an opportunity. They are a very good team, coached by a very good coach.”
After a slow start to the series that saw the club drop the first two games, Amherst won the third game and played perhaps its best game of the series at home last Saturday night – only to lose 3-2 on a late goal by Tibbo.
“I think that was the turning point in the series. I really believe we really deserved to win it, but they were opportunistic and took advantage of their opportunities,” LeBlanc said.
With the season over, LeBlanc and his coaching staff will work with the club’s scouts to prepare for the draft in Miramichi in June.
He said with a strong nucleus coming back the Ramblers will be in the hunt again next season, adding that those eligible to return gained a lot of valuable playoff experience – something none of them had going into this year.
“We have a group of players that learned a lot about what it takes to win in the playoffs. That experience will be invaluable,” LeBlanc said. “When I first started in Dieppe we experienced a lot of failure early on, but we kept building and one year we got to the final and the next year we won it all. I can see the same thing happening here in Amherst. Amherst has the most passionate fans in the league, we saw it in the playoffs when more than 2,000 came out to cheer on their team. Amherst deserves a championship.”
Twitter: @ADNdarrell