TRURO – It didn’t take long to figure out what kind of night this was going to be.
Evan Carmody’s goal to give the Pictou County Crushers the lead just 1:39 into Saturday’s Eastlink Division semifinal against the Truro Bearcats at RECC offered the 1,508 in attendance a glimpse of what they were in store for.
The tally put the Bearcats on their heels and they never recovered, falling 3-1 to their rivals from the other side of Mount Thom.
“I think we were kind of shell shocked more than anything because I don’t think the guys were ready,” Bearcats defenceman Zach Evans-Renaud, who notched Truro’s lone goal, said of Carmody’s marker. “But it is what it is and you have to rebound from something like that in the playoffs.”
The Hubtowners, who finished the regular season atop the division at 38-9-0-5, will get a chance to Tuesday when they travel to New Glasgow for a 7 p.m. date with the Crushers (28-19-4-1) at Pictou County Wellness Centre. The Bearcats return home Thursday for Game 3, also at 7 p.m.
The Crushers had been fighting for their playoff lives all week in the best-of-three mini-series with the Bridgewater Lumberjacks – which the Crushers swept 2-0 – while the Bearcats reaped the fruits of their first-place finish with a week off.
And it showed as the puck dropped with Pictou County commanding the early pace.
It happened again in the second period, with Nick Parker padding the Crushers’ lead just 1:24 into the frame.
The start of the third stanza was yet another horrible rerun for the Bearcats; Parker’s second of the night coming with the man-advantage just 51 seconds in.
Evans-Renaud’s tally, a blast from the blueline that beat the Crushers’ Brandon Thibeau up high at 10:53 of the second, pulled the Bearcats to within a goal and breathed some life into the team and the building, but it wasn’t enough. The Bearcats swarmed the Pictou County crease throughout the final period, but failed to convert on several chances.
“The boys just didn’t come ready to play in the first period and after that it took us a little while to get going but by the end of it, it was too little too late,” Evans-Renaud, a 21-year-old St. Peters Bay, P.E.I., native, said.
Thibeau needed 22 saves to record the victory while the loss was hung on Shayne Campbell, who made 19 stops.
The mood was sombre in the Truro dressing room following the game.
“We know what if feels like to lose in the playoffs,” Evans-Renaud said. “Everybody just has to take it in, forget the game but not the lesson.”
Although they now trail in the series, the five-foot-10, 180-pound veteran said he and his teammates are keeping things in perspective and know they can play better.
“I’ve got all the confidence in the world in these guys in the room,” he said. “They’ve been with me through this entire year and I don’t plan on them going anywhere anytime soon.”