TRURO, N.S. – Before the puck drops on Saturday at the RECC, the Truro Bearcats will know exactly what’s required to earn a playoff berth in the Maritime Junior Hockey League’s Eastlink South Division.
The Bearcats host the Amherst Ramblers for a 7 p.m. start in their final regular season game.
Truro is battling for a playoff position with the South Shore Lumberjacks and Pictou County Crushers. The Bearcats control their own fate, and with a victory would clinch a post-season spot.
However, another scenario would allow the Bearcats (24-20-2-3) to be in, even before stepping on the ice Saturday.
South Shore (25-20-3-0) and Pictou County (22-19-3-4) play a home-and-home series tonight, March 7 and Friday, March 8. A regulation win by South Shore in either game will eliminate Pictou County, giving the Lumberjacks No. 3 seed and the Bearcats No. 4 seed, making Saturday’s game meaningless as far as standings are concerned. For the Crushers to get in, they will need at least three points in those two games and a Truro loss on Saturday.
“We’re in an interesting situation,” said Bearcats coach Shawn Evans. “It’s at least nice to know we can control what we need to do.”
It wasn’t that long ago the Bearcats appeared a lock to make the playoffs. They won five of seven games out of the Christmas break and sat comfortably in third place in mid-January. However, they finished the month with four straight losses and proceeded to go 2-6 in February, putting them in jeopardy of missing the playoffs for the first time in 22 seasons.
“We haven’t been a very consistent team, we haven’t been a very confident team really all year long,” said Evans. “Some of that is our own doing; we’ve found ways to distract ourselves and we found ways to lose our focus as a group before we even hit the ice, so I’m hoping we’ve learned enough lessons.”
Should the Bearcats need a win on Saturday against the Ramblers, it won’t be easy.
Amherst (35-11-1-2) is the hottest team in the league with a 9-0-0-1 record in its last 10, including a 3-0 home-ice victory over Truro last Saturday. The Ramblers are 3-0 in their last three meetings with the Bearcats and have outscored Truro by a 13-1 margin in those games.
Amherst will also have added incentive Saturday. With a victory, they will set a new franchise record for regular season wins with 36.
“They’re really finding their game at this time of the year, which is really what you want to do,” said Evans. “It’s not gonna be an easy task, nor should it be.”
Alec MacDonald will get the start between the pipes for the Bearcats on Saturday.
The Ramblers are likely to finish second in the Eastlink South. They are currently tied with the division-leading Yarmouth Mariners (34-9-3-2) with 73 points. However, the Mariners finish their regular season this weekend with two games against the last place Valley Wildcats (6-38-4-0)