AMHERST – The Amherst CIBC Wood Gundy Ramblers have a chance to come close to second place in the Maritime Hockey League’s Eastlink South Division this weekend.
“It’s a big four-point weekend and, if you look at the standings, if we end up with those four points we could pull within striking distance of South Shore,” said Jeff LeBlanc, Ramblers coach and general manager.
The Ramblers travel to Woodstock to play the Slammers on Friday night and return home Saturday night at 7 p.m. to host the South Shore Lumberjacks.
The Lumberjacks are second in the South Division with 41 points and the Ramblers are third with 35 points. The Ramblers also have three games in hand. They’ve played 27 games to the Lumberjacks’ 30.
LeBlanc says winning four points would be a big confidence booster.
“We made some trades lately, we brought in a goalie (Cody Porter) and we brought in a really good forward (Will Bower), so just for the confidence it would be big to win both nights.”
The Ramblers are coming off a 4-3 win in Summerside against the Western Capitals on Monday night.
“I thought the effort was there from start to finish against Summerside, and I thought we played really well without the puck,” said LeBlanc. “They have, arguably, one of the best players in the league (MHL point-leader TJ Shea) and I thought we shut him down for the most part.” Shea had three assists in the game.
He says the Ramblers need to carry that momentum over to Woodstock Friday night.
“It’s another big test and we have to be ready for it and I think we will be.”
The Ramblers didn’t play so well last Saturday at home in their 5-2 loss to the Pictou County Weeks Crushers.
“We all didn’t have a very good game. I didn’t have a very good game as a coach and the players didn’t have a very good game Saturday night,” said LeBlanc. “We didn’t have a good outcome against Pictou and it hurt us and we want to make sure we play a good home game here Saturday and a good road game on Friday in Woodstock,” said LeBlanc.
Joel Goguen will get the start in net in Woodstock and Cody Porter will play in net in Amherst.
“We have two very good goaltenders and it’s a good problem to have,” said LeBlanc.
Porter started in net last Friday in Berwick where the Ramblers beat the Valley Wildcats 6-5.
He started again on Saturday at home in their 5-2 loss to the Crushers, getting pulled in favour of Goguen.
“I take responsibility there for sure because he (Porter) was coming off a four hour changeover, four hours jet lag, and I threw him right into the fire. I did the same thing to him against Pictou,” said LeBlanc. “I should have probably given him a rest for the first game and played him the second two games but hindsight is 20/20.”
Porter played in the Western Hockey League for four years, and LeBlanc says it takes time to adjust to a new league.
“When every game is a new rink an every game is a new experience it can affect you sometimes.”
He also says Porter is a very technically sound goaltender.
“He’s the best technical goalie I’ve coached in my eight years in the Junior A. He prepares well and he’s only going to get better.”
He is also pleased with how Goguen is playing.
“Joel is doing the job when we throw him in there, which is good to see because Joel is a very hard worker and doesn’t give up,” said LeBlanc. “Any opportunity he’s had he’s made the most of it and that’s all you can ask from a backup goaltender. When he gets his opportunities to do well, he does, which translates into more opportunities down the road.