TRURO, N.S. – Shawn Evans isn’t concerned with his team’s underdog status heading into a Maritime Junior Hockey League quarter-final series.
“Are we favoured? No. But you play the games, you don’t play the odds,” said Evans, the head coach and general manager of the Truro Bearcats.
The Bearcats and longtime rival Yarmouth Mariners drop the puck on their first-round Eastlink South Division semifinal series on Thursday in Yarmouth. Game 2 in the best-of-seven affair is Saturday at the RECC at 7 p.m.
The series is a rematch of a first-round playoff tilt between the teams last season, which the Mariners won in seven games.
The Mariners enter the series as the No. 1 seed after winning the South Division regular season title with a record of 36-9-3-2 for 77 points. The fourth-place Bearcats, meanwhile, squeaked into the post-season with a record of 24-21-2-3 – a distant 24 points behind their southwestern Nova Scotia counterparts.
Yarmouth won all seven head-to-head regular season meetings against Truro and was the second-highest scoring team in the league next to the Summerside Western Capitals.
“They’re confident, they’ve got lots of skill; you slow them down by making them play in their own end,” said Evans.
“Our game’s always been the same – we need to manage the puck well, we need to compete hard. When we’ve done that this year we’ve had good results. When we haven’t put those two combinations together we’ve been on our heels a lot. So we need to be ready. We need to be going North.”
Evans said his team isn’t looking too far ahead and is only focusing on the series opener at the Mariners Centre.
“We’re not looking at trying to win the series at this point; we’re looking at trying to have a good first period in their rink in Game 1. That’ll be a good start for us and that’s all I’m looking at.
“We know what our opponent’s bringing; we’ve seen them enough. We’ve got to take care of ourselves first. We’ll worry about the opponent after we take care of what we need to do.”
The Bearcats will be without Shaun Bily and Craig Ryan who are sidelined with season-ending injuries. Ben Fraser, a Weeks Major Midget call-up, has been added to the roster to help fill the voids.
Myles Hektor will start between the pipes for Truro on Thursday.
The other South Division semifinal series begins Friday when the Amherst Ramblers (2) host South Shore Lumberjacks (3). In the North Division, Summerside (1) entertains the St. Stephen Aces (4) Saturday, while the Campbellton Tigers (2) and Edmunsdston Blizzard (3) get started Friday in Campbellton.