Truro shifting focus to league final after eliminating Pictou County
TRURO - Not even the Truro Bearcats could have predicted what happened in their EastLink Division final against the Pictou County Crushers.
Sweeping their Mount Thom rivals from the Kent Cup playoffs didn't seem a likely outcome before the best-of-seven series started. But that's exactly what happened as the Bearcats finished the Crushers with a 4-3 overtime victory Sunday in New Glasgow.
"That's certainly not something I forecasted," Bearcats coach Shawn Evans said Monday. "This is a group of players that have confidence right now."
The Bearcats and Crushers entered the series on virtually even ground. They each won three games in their six regular-season meetings and Truro outscored Pictou County 20-19 in that span. The Bearcats finished first overall in the regular season at 38-11-1-2 while the Crushers were second to the Bearcats in the division at 35-12-0-5.
But the Bearcats were rested, coming into the series following a nine-day layoff thanks to sweeping the Valley Wildcats in the opening round. The Crushers, meanwhile, were battered after a seven-game marathon with the Amherst Ramblers. It resulted in a 6-2 Truro win in Game 1 and the Bearcats were off and running.
"Game 1 was big for us," Evans said. "It was in their rink and we got a lot of confidence from that game."
After another lopsided 7-2 victory for Truro in Game 2 on home ice, the Crushers came to play in Game 3 and held their first lead of the series early in the contest. But the Bearcats couldn't be stopped and earned a 4-3 win.
The story was the same on Sunday in Game 4, which saw Pictou County push the battle to overtime before the Bearcats prevailed on a Daniel Poliziani marker 7:28 into the extra frame.
"It hasn't been an easy task to get to this point," Evans said.
The Bearcats have been missing forward Mitchell Robillard since Jan. 18 after he broke his wrist and suffered tissue damage. He was tied for third on the team in scoring with 36 points (16G, 20A) in 33 games at the time of the injury. Forward Brandon Bazinet, who had scored in Games 1 and 2 against Pictou County, missed the final two meetings of the series with an upper body injury.
But with the Bearcats earning another rest while waiting for the Dieppe Commandos and Miramichi Timberwolves to decide who will face them in the league final, Bazinet should be ready to go and Robillard might not be far behind.
"I wouldn't be surprised if we saw him in the final round," Evans said of the 20-year-old St. Eustache, Que., native.
The injuries earned younger players like Truro native Jeff Hanes and Jordan Wentzell extra ice time and also moved the Bearcats to call up midget prospect Alex MacDonald. They didn't disappoint.
"All the big-name players are very important but the guys who don't get as much attention are just as important," Evans said. "It didn't seem to matter what players played in what situations, they found a way to get the job done."
The final is now what the Bearcats have locked their sights on. In spite of winning the Fred Page Cup Eastern Canadian championship last spring, the Bearcats missed out on the league title, falling in five games to the Summerside Western Capitals.
"We missed out on a big prize and there are a lot of returning players who would like to put on a good showing in the final round," Evans said.
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