SPRINGHILL, N.S. – With 16 games down and 16 left to go in their 2019-2020 Nova Scotia Junior Hockey League regulars season, the Cumberland Blues have their work cut out for them if they hope to make the 2020 playoffs.
“We have to work a lot harder and not give up,” Blues coach Wayne MacKenzie said, “They get up a couple of goals and lay up a little bit and next thing you know the other team punches a couple of pucks into the net.”
That’s exactly what happened against the Liverpool Privateers Friday night at the Richard Calder Arena in Springhill.
Up 4-3 heading into the third period, the Privateers tied the game 4-4 before the Blues went up 6-4 off goals from Chad Miller and Yanick LeBlanc. Miller scored with 15:17 left in the game and LeBlanc scored with 13:34 left in the game.
“We were up 6-4 and we let them back in the game. We didn’t close them down,” MacKenzie said. “We’re there, we just have to finish. The boys let up a couple of shifts and, in this league, when you let up a little bit the puck ends up in your own net.”
The Privateers scored with 7:49 left in the game and tied the game 6-6 with 5:36 left in the game. The won the game 14 seconds into the overtime frame.
The overtime loss gives the Blues five points, two wins and one overtime loss in 16 games, leaving them in last place in the six-team Sid Rowe Division.
The Blues lost their first 10 games of the season before beating the Brookfield Elks 6-4 on the road on Nov. 2.
Their second win came at the hands of the Sid Rowe Division-leading Port Hawkesbury Strait Pirates at home on Nov. 8.
“There is only a couple games this season that we weren’t in,” MacKenzie said. “We were close but didn’t get over that hump.”
One hurdle to clear is better defensive zone coverage.
“We’re running around too much and players are getting out of place, and we also have to battle a little harder in our own end.”
The other hurdle is team cohesion.
“We have the right pieces but we have to get them working as a team.”
MacKenzie is looking forward to the second half of the season.
“We need to win a few games, get to the playoffs and go from there.”
MacKenzie hopes everybody has a happy holiday.
“The Cumberland Blues wish everybody a Merry Christmas and have safe travels over the holidays,” he said.
Blues vs. Privateers
Scoring for the Blues in their 7-6 overtime loss to the Privateers was Yanick LeBlanc with two goals, and Brody Deegan, Landen Clarke, Chad Miller and Tate O’Reilly with one each.
Single assists were scored by Deegan, Clarke, Alex Griffiths, Jacob Estabrooks, Dylan Walton, Noah Harrison, Jordan Harrison and Jayden Matheson.
Blues goaltender Joshua Doyle stopped 44 of the 51 shots he faced, and his teammates had 29 shots on Privateers goaltender Keaghan Larade.
Top five Blues point leaders after 16 games
Yanick LeBlanc – 14 goals, five assists
Brody Deegan – Eight goals, seven assists
Reuben MacKenzie – Five goals, eight assists
Landen Clarke – Three goals, nine assists
Jacob Estabrooks – Three goals, four assists
The Blues play their final game of 2019 in Cole Harbour against the Colts on Friday, Dec. 13
The Blues return home Jan. 3 to host the Cole Harbour Colts, and Jan. 10 to play the East Hants Penguins.