Truro looks to continue host streak as regular season winds down
TRURO - Not even the man who built the Truro Bearcats forecasted this.
Truro Bearcats players Cal Gloade, left, Jeff Hanes, Denver Lynds and Daniel Poliziani celebrate a victory earlier this season. The Bearcats have been sizzling hot since the Christmas break winning 16 of 18 games. Truro travels to Yarmouth tonight to take on the Mariners before returning home to host the Valley Wildcats Saturday at RECC. File photo
Then again, who could? Nobody could say with certainty that any team in the Maritime Junior Hockey League could reel off 16 wins in 18 games. The 11-team circuit is just too competitive night in and night out.
But that's just what the Bearcats have done since returning to action from the Christmas break. In the process, the team erased an eight-point deficit to the Pictou County Crushers (31-12-0-5) for top spot in the EastLink Division and now the Hubtowners lead the way by five points.
"This certainly isn't what I forecasted," Bearcats coach and general manager Shawn Evans said. "But to this point in the season the players have decided how the games are going to go and they're a hungry group."
That's good news for fans of the black, red and white with the postseason just around the corner. The Bearcats (35-11-0-2) have four games remaining in the regular season, starting tonight when they travel to Yarmouth for a 7:30 p.m. meeting with the third-place Mariners (29-17-2-1).
Truro returns to the RECC Saturday at 7 p.m. to host the Valley Wildcats (19-23-4-1), fifth in the division.
Chris Festarini gets the start tonight while Jacob Fancy will be in the crease Saturday.
In spite of the way they've been playing, Evans said his team knows nothing will be handed to it. In fact, it'll be quite the opposite as teams paint a target on the Bearcats, relishing the chance to steal a victory from one of the hottest clubs in the league.
"We know our opponent tonight is a very good hockey team," Evans said of the Mariners. "They've got a lot to play for, as do we, and it's going to be tough. Everyone knows what the standings are and what's at stake."
The Bearcats are on a mission. The team wants to cross the finish at the top of the division table. After the weekend they finish the regular season March 7 and 8 with games against the last-place Bridgewater Lumberjacks (4-37-3-3) and another date with the Wildcats. On paper the matchups look favourable and should the Bearcats be able to run the table, they could finish the schedule with one more win than last year's 38-9-0-5 showing from the Fred Page Cup champions.
But the Bearcats aren't thinking about any of that at this point.
"We're just trying to keep our window small and stay focused on the short term," Evans said.
The Bearcats have simply found ways to win hockey games down the stretch and have fed off the deadline acquisitions of Festarini from the OHL's Niagara Ice Dogs and forward Brandon Boutilier, who was captain of the Wildcats.
"They're both leaders in their own way and they give a lot of confidence to our guys," Evans said.
Although Evans said he's more than pleased with how his club has been performing of late, he said he feels the group has another gear.
"There's still room for improvement," he said. "I don't feel we've played a full 60-minute game and we need to do that when the games are most important in a couple weeks. I think that's a positive for us."
On Twitter: @tdnmatt