Win over Dieppe extends Truro’s top-spot cushion over Pictou County
TRURO – The Truro Bearcats liked what they saw when they woke up Sunday morning and looked at the Maritime Junior Hockey League standings.
For the first time this season the Bearcats (32-11-0-2) had more than a one-point edge over the Pictou County Crushers (29-10-0-5) at the top of the EastLink Division table, thanks to a 5-2 victory Saturday over the Dieppe Commandos at RECC.
The victory, in front of 756 fans, came a night after the Bearcats turned aside the Valley Wildcats (18-21-4-1) 5-3, also at home.
“It really helps in the standings,” Bearcats forward Brandon Pye, who had a four-point night Saturday on the back of a pair of goals, said. “We wanted to win both games and it feels good to get it done.”
The results give Truro a three-point edge over Pictou County. The two sides had been swapping the position for the past several weeks, with each club unable to gain more than a one-point advantage. The Crushers, with eight games remaining in the regular season, hold a game in hand over the Bearcats. The Amherst Ramblers (28-14-0-1) and the Yarmouth Mariners (27-16-2-1) are tied in third, nine points off the pace.
Pye said the results were important for his team.
“At the end of the season, every win can make a big difference,” the six-foot, 195-pound native of Mount Pearl, Nfld., said. “So to get two (on the) weekend is big.”
The Bearcats wasted no time in illustrating they were after their 13th win in 15 games since the holiday break, building a 3-0 lead in the opening 20 minutes. Rookie Kyle Tibbo started things off just 2:09 into the game with his 20th goal of the season, pushing him to second on the Truro roster. Pye notched his first of the night about a minute later before Jacob Smith recorded his team leading 23rd goal at 13:10.
Pye said the first period played a large part in dictating the outcome of the game.
“We got off to a really strong start,” he said. “We pushed the pace, took the game to them, got pucks deep and just played how we want to play and it helped us score.”
Matt Bernier clawed one back for Dieppe 19 seconds into the second period before Tibbo, with his second of the game, restored Truro’s three-goal lead at 7:03. Dieppe’s Shane Dallaire closed the gap to 4-2 less than a minute later but that’s as close as the Commandos would get as Pye buried his second of the night into an empty net with 30 seconds remaining.
Jacob Fancy got the call from Bearcats coach Shawn Evans and didn’t disappoint with a 27 save effort. The Commandos got 24 stops from Connor Wilkinson.
On Friday, the Bearcars scored four second-period goals to clinch the win. Pye, Daniel Perigo, Tyler Morrison, Phillip Fife and Brandon Boutilier scored for Truro while Chris Festarini made 17 saves.
Former Bearcat Jean-Marc Evans-Renaud, who was traded to Valley Jan. 10 for Boutilier, scored for the Wildcats, as did Austin Harding and John Deacon. Bobby Palzer allowed three goals on 16 shots before being replaced by Blade Mann-Dixon, who stopped 13 the rest of the way.
Pye said he and his teammates have been a determined bunch down the stretch and would like nothing more than to finish the schedule in first place.
“Absolutely,” he said. “We’re in first now and everyone’s pretty motivated and confident we can finish first if we keep playing our game.”
NOTE: Truro Forwards Brandon Bazinet and Jeff Hanes were not in the lineup Saturday, as both are nursing upper-body injuries.
The Bearcats expect an update on forward Mitchell Robillard’s on Feb. 27 following his next doctor’s appointment. The 20-year-old native of St. Eustache, Que., is healing a broken wrist suffered Jan. 18 against the Crushers.
Bearcats coach Shawn Evans said he hopes Robillard, who was second in team scoring at the time of his injury, will be ready for the start of the postseason.
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