MHL hits the home stretch
With almost all playoff positions secured, the Maritime Hockey League will be heading into the final week of its regular season.
With the nine teams holding down playoff spots being determined for quite some time, there was no room for error amongst the high seeded teams to try and strengthen their leads with hard charging teams behind them.
The Truro Bearcats will likely finish in top spot in the Nova Scotia based Eastlink Division. They need just a single point in their final two games to secure the spot over New Glasgow. The Bearcats picked up three of a possible four points this past week. After dropping an overtime loss in Yarmouth on Friday, they returned home to beat the Valley Wildcats on Sunday 5-3, led by three assists from Moncton Wildcats prospect Kyle Tibbo.
The Weeks Crushers managed to pull out wins in all three of their games this week, but with just one game remaining it looks like it’s too little too late to take over first spot in the division. The Crushers scored a win in Bridgewater sandwiched between two home victories against Valley and Campbellton. Team captain Nick Parker, who was named first star of the week in the MHL, scored three goals and added three helpers in the trio of games.
The Amherst Ramblers have managed to climb back into the third spot in the Eastlink Division, even though they only managed to split their games this week. The start was not pretty for the Ramblers who dropped a pair of road games, first a 7-2 defeat to Miramichi, then a 4-3 shootout loss in Summerside in a game where they blew a 3-1 third period lead. However, they would find their footing the next night in Woodstock beating the Slammers 3-1 with a 35-save effort from goaltender Richard Tingley before returning home to defeat Summerside 5-2.
The Yarmouth Mariners ended their season this past week, and with that they dropped into fourth place in the division. Friday, the Mariners defeated the Bearcats 2-1 with Morgan Messenger’s overtime winning goal. Then they opened a home-and-home set with the Bridgewater Lumberjacks in Yarmouth, and defeated them 5-4 in the shootout with Connor Donaghey scoring the game winner. The next afternoon in Bridgewater, a pair of four point efforts by former Mariners players helped the Lumberjacks secure a 6-3 victory.
The Valley Wildcats dropped all three of their contests on the road this week but managed to keep them all very close. Thursday night in New Glasgow they lost to the Crushers 4-2 before playing in Truro two nights later and losing to the Bearcats 5-3. They then made a trip to Summerside and lost to the Capitals by a 4-2 score.
The Lumberjacks have started to get a little better as a group as they build toward next season. They had three games against divisional opponents this week. They began by dropping a 5-1 contest at home to the Weeks Crushers. In Yarmouth on Saturday night, they took the Mariners to a shootout before losing, then returned home to beat the Mariners 6-3 with four-point games from both Ryan Groom and Matt Wright.
In the New Brunswick and P.E.I. based Meek Division, the Miramichi Timberwolves had a rather disappointing week dropping two of three games, but did managed to salvage a point in a shootout loss. The Timberwolves had three-point games from four different players to defeat Amherst 7-2 to start the week. They then squandered a two-goal lead at home to Woodstock and lost in the shootout. They then traveled to Dieppe and the Commandos managed to take a 4-2 win from the Timberwolves.
The Dieppe Commandos, despite a big scare for the past few weeks, have managed to lock down home ice in the playoffs and second spot in the Meek Division. The Commandos secured five of a possible six points this week. On Wednesday, it was a 7-4 win against Campbellton with five players having multi-point games. They then lost in a shootout in Campbellton two nights later by a score of 4-3. On Sunday, they faced the Miramichi Timberwolves and were able to take the game by a score of 4-2.
The Woodstock Slammers have been on a roll lately and played their way into a spot to overtake Dieppe for second spot in the Meek. With that being settled this past week, the Slammers split their games. First was a home loss against Amherst by a count of 3-1. They then rallied from a two-goal deficit to defeat the Miramichi Timberwolves 3-2 in a shootout with team captain Brett MacLean scoring the deciding goal.
The Summerside Western Capitals opened the week with a home-and-home set with Amherst. They started by coming back from a two-goal third period deficit to defeat the Ramblers 4-3 in a shootout with Maxim Pitre scoring the winning goal in the sixth round of the shootout. On Saturday, the two teams met again in Amherst, where the Ramblers used a three-goal third period to bury the Caps 5-2. Returning for their final home game of the season, the Caps would use multi-point efforts from five different players to help them defeat the Valley Wildcats by a score of 5-2.
The Campbellton Tigers had a chance to play a spoiler role this week. With a home-and-home against the Dieppe Commandos followed by a game in New Glasgow against the Crushers. They opened dropping a 7-4 game to the Commandos in Dieppe before returning home and defeating the Commandos 4-3 in a shootout with Joey Bernard scoring the game deciding goal. Their final game of the week was in New Glasgow, where the Tigers held a lead going to the third period before the Crushers managed to score two in the third to take the game 3-2.