AMHERST – Jeff LeBlanc is at the head of what could be a grumpy hockey club. That could be bad news for its opponents this weekend.
Coming off a trio of losses on the road last weekend to the South Shore Lumberjacks and the Yarmouth Mariners – including one in overtime – the Amherst CIBC Wood Gundy Ramblers return to action with another three-game weekend starting tonight in Truro against the always tough Bearcats.
The Ramblers are also home Saturday against the Woodstock Slammers and again Heritage Day Monday against the Miramichi Timberwolves.
“We’re not happy with how things went last weekend and the guys want to do something about it this weekend. We really want to bounce back in a big way,” LeBlanc said.
“I thought we deserved better in two of the three games last weekend. We just couldn’t get things going in the first game (at South Shore) while against Yarmouth we hit four posts in the first game and in the second game we were short players and still gave ourselves a chance to win.”
The Bearcats have dominated the Ramblers this season and LeBlanc said his players need to develop a dislike for Truro – a team that also eliminated them from the playoffs in five games last spring en route to the league championship over Miramichi.
“We have to hate that team a little more,” LeBlanc said. “I don’t find that rivalry is where it should be with us. It may be for them because they keep beating us, but it’s not where I want it to be. We seem to hate Pictou more than them and we’ve beaten Pictou a lot more this seaso than we’ve beaten them.”
The biggest thing LeBlanc wants to fix this weekend is the club, suddenly anemic offence. The Ramblers’ coach knows it’s going to take a lot more offence to be successful in the playoffs and he’s hoping some of his to players – including Jordan King, Liam Conrad and Will Bower – break out of the offensive funk they’ve been in for a couple of weeks.
“The guys who have been producing for us all season are in a little bit of a dry spell,” he said. “I have confidence in every one of those players that they’re going to come out of it. We just have to regain that scoring touch and get more pucks to the net and set up more screens in front. There are some good goalies in this league and we’re in a tough division.”
LeBlanc doesn’t believe King, the club’s leading scorer, is fatigued or out of gas, even though he has yet to score a goal in February.
He said he talks to his team captain almost daily and knows he will get back on the scoresheet soon. It’s not something he’s worried about right now.
“As long as he keeps working hard and getting the chances I know they’re eventually going to start going in for him again,” LeBlanc said.
LeBlanc expects Conrad back in the lineup tonight while Jake Barter, who was also injured next week, is game-to-game with an upper body injury. Jordan Renaud, who has been out the past few weeks with an upper body injury, is expected to rejoin the lineup this weekend.