By Gerry Hale
Playoff intensity doesn't usually surface until March.
Not so this year. In fact, Friday's game in Woodstock had all the markings of that heated time of year. For the fans, it was a great tilt to watch. For the players, it was a game to remember. It's been a long time since the Truro Bearcats pulled off a win in Woodstock, a feat few teams have accomplished of late as the Slammers have been the class of the league over the past several seasons.
Friday's win allows the Bearcats to be mentioned in the same class. It feels good.
The game was even with the Bearcats, perhaps, outchancing their opponent. Solid goaltending in both ends kept doubt alive.
In the end, Truro found a way to win. The energy, attitude and outlook was different with this group. That's a good sign. It was a good early-season win in a hostile venue. It was also an early-season confidence builder.
Coming into this week, the Bearcats were carrying 21 players, suggesting there is room to add talent However, determining need will not be rushed.
The first Canadian Junior Hockey League rankings this year have the Yarmouth Mariners (3rd) and the Truro Bearcats (16th) in the top 20. Already, the Bent Division is shaping up to be extremely competitive, especially with the early performances of the Mariners, Bearcats, Amherst Ramblers and the Pictou County Crushers. All head-to-head matchups involving these teams will be intense and hard fought. Metro and Bridgewater will have to step up to avoid separation from the rest in the division.
The Meek Division has already seen an early challenge presented by the Dieppe Commondos. Traditional leaders, Summerside and Woodstock, won't stand for that.
On Saturday, the Bearcats host the Campbellton Tigers in their home opener at 7:30 p.m. at Colchester Legion Stadium.
The Tigers are a young team strong on the forward units but thin on defence. The Bearcats earned a 2-1 decision over them in their first meeting this year. The Campbellton program had a few bumps over the years but by making the playoffs the past two seasons, the team has served notice it is moving forward under the direction of new head coach, Ron Gaudet Jr.
Gerry Hale is media relations co-ordinator for the Truro Bearcats junior A hockey club.