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Rambler coach says buzzer-beating goal was heartbreaking


AMHERST, N.S. – Joy and jubilation instantly turned to heartbreak after the Ottawa Jr. Senators scored a last-second goal to beat the Amherst CIBC Wood Gundy Ramblers 4-3 Saturday night at Amherst Stadium.

“I’m not 100 per cent sure, but I heard there was .2 seconds left on the clock,” said Jeff LeBlanc, Ramblers coach and general manager following the Fred Page Cup semi-final loss to the Senators.

“To come that close and to lose the way we did, there’s no other words to describe it, your heart’s broken,” he added. “Especially for those 21 kids in the room who busted their butt for three weeks and did everything I asked them to do, and came in and sacrificed.”

The Ramblers were down 3-1 heading into the third period, and came back to tie the game off goals from Matt Green and Cole Waugh. Green scored with seven minutes left in the game, and then Waugh scored off the face off with 2:41 left in the game.

With the game tied 3-3, Ottawa’s Noah Rowe scored on Amherst goaltender Matt Williams just as the buzzer sounded.

“The crowd was really into it, and I said to my assistant coaches that ‘if this gets to overtime, we’re winning,’ and unfortunately we were .2 seconds away from going to overtime,” said LeBlanc.

While the Senators celebrated on the ice, fans watched with baited breath as the referees huddled together to discuss if the puck crossed the goal line before or after the buzzer sounded.

In the end it was determined that, yes, the Ottawa Jr. Senators scored before the final buzzer, winning the Fred Page Cup semi-final by a score of 4-3.

“I can’t even describe in words how I feel. I feel bad for so many people. I feel bad for the people who have been wanting a championship for so long, and for the organization that volunteers so much of their time,” said LeBlanc. “There’s nothing I wanted more as a coach in hockey than to bring this town an Eastern Canadian championship.”

LeBlanc said his team refused to quit all year, and the semi-final game was no exception.

“You could feel in the dressing room between the second and third period that they weren’t going to give up,” said LeBlanc. “You could hear it in the room, you could hear the leaders step up and say, ‘no, we’re not losing like this,’ and they came out and tied the game up against the best team I’ve seen all year.”

Leblanc said this year’s Ramblers squad is one of the best group of kids he’s ever coached.

“They’re classy, classy individuals,” said LeBlanc.

“To go through the 30 days of training that I put them through was tough,” he added. “There’s some kids that didn’t make it, and there was one kid that was sent home, and the rest of those kids bought in and they worked hard.”

He says he takes 100 per cent of the blame for the loss.

“It’s one of those things where you’re working so hard at something and you want to be rewarded and you want to see the fans celebrate, and you want to see those kids and the organization celebrate, but we just came up short.”

LeBlanc won a Maritime Hockey League title coaching the Dieppe Commandos, and in 2015 brought them to the championship game of the Fred Page Cup in Cornwall, Ont.

“We’re still seeking a championship here in Amherst but they’re very hard to win. I was fortunate to win one in this league, and I know how hard it is and the breaks you need to be able to win,” said LeBlanc. “It can be as simple as a guy coming in from the Q (QMJHL) who is not supposed to come from the Q. It’s a big break like that that can be the difference between winning and losing a championship, and we’ve yet to have that big break for us here.”

He says recruiting top players has become easier with each passing year.

“I think this organization works their butt off every day to try to make it better, and right now I think we’re one of the top three destinations in the MHL for every player that comes out of midget hockey,” said LeBlanc.

He says he’s always getting phone calls from players showing interest in playing in Amherst.

“Four years ago when I was making phone calls with returning players, we had over half who didn’t want to come back here. That was four years ago, and now everybody wants to come here and be a part of this.”

He says he’s proud of how far the team has come in four years.

“I am proud of that, but the ultimate goal is to hoist that trophy at the end of the year and, unfortunately, we didn’t get it done this year.”

Ottawa went on to win the tournament, defeating the Princeville Titan of Quebec 9-2 in Sunday's championship game.

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