Standings get tighter as MHL nears holiday break

Although each division has a clear front runner for the time being, the teams battling behind are all bunching together heading towards the holiday break. Games will be played up until this Sunday before the league will take a break until the new year.

The Pictou County Weeks Crushers continue to lead the EastLink Division with 39 points, while the Yarmouth Mariners, Truro Bearcats and Valley Wildcats have 33, 31 and 30 respectively. In the Meek Division, despite falling on hard times lately, the Woodstock Slammers still have a comfortable eight-point lead with 45 points. Dieppe, Miramichi and Summerside are all within four points of each other in the battle for second place.

On Thursday night in New Glasgow, the Crushers fell to the Yarmouth Mariners by a score of 3-2. Tyler Brown, Cray Roberge, and newly acquired Blake Busch, from QJHL’s St. Jerome, tallied goals for the Mariners with Rowan O’Brien turning aside 31 shots in the win. The Dieppe Commandos would also find a way to win, with Marc Terriault stopping 36 Woodstock shots in a 3-1 win over their division rival. Commandos captain Ryan Langan scored twice for Dieppe.

Friday night began with the Commandos traveling to St. Stephen to take on the County Aces in the debut game for Eric Bissonnette behind the Aces bench. The Aces would hold three separate one goal leads with Dieppe answering every time. The teams would embark in a marathon 19-round shootout before captain Ryan Langan would come up big for the Commandos again, giving his team the win and the extra point in the standings. Curtis Hastings scored all three goals for the Aces in regulation time. The Summerside Western Capitals would put up another great offensive performance, this time beating the Valley Wildcats 7-3 in Berwick. Blaize Bridges (1-4) and Thomas Stavert (3-1) led the charge for the Capitals while Alex Kelly stopped 32 shots in the win. The Crushers would get back in the win column by defeating the Campbellton Tigers 4-2 in Campbellton. Garrett Lambke and Daniel Walsh would each record two points while Justin Ritcey turned aside 30 Tigers shots in the win. Eddie Banville would score both Tigers goals in defeat. The final game of the night was also the biggest upset, as the South Shore Lumberjacks defeated the Woodstock Slammers 4-3 in a shootout in Woodstock. Layton Parsons scored a pair of goals in regulation while Josh Shatford would net the shootout winner for the Jacks. Brandon Parsons replied with a pair of goals for the Slammers.

On Saturday night, the Summerside Western Capitals would reel off another win in Nova Scotia, using a late third period goal to defeat the Truro Bearcats 4-3. Brad Power would score his second of the game with just over five minutes left to break the 3-3 tie. Brodie Barrick stopped 23 shots in the win. The County Aces would reward its head coach with his first win behind an MHL bench by defeating the South Shore Lumberjacks 4-2. Parker Sanderson led the Aces with a goal and pair of assists in the win while Anderson Snair stopped 22 shots. The Campbellton Tigers would manage to hold off the Amherst Ramblers 3-1 in Amherst on Saturday night. Malik Johnson, Robert Pelletier and Francis Theriault all scored for the Tigers while Zack MacEwen scored the lone Ramblers goal. The Valley Wildcats would make up for a home ice loss the night before by defeating the Yarmouth Mariners 5-4 in a shootout. Nick Bruce and Jesse Hamer both recorded two points while Mark Loveday stopped 45 shots in the effort. Brandon Syms replied with two goals for the Mariners. The final game of the night saw the Weeks Crushers defeat the Miramichi Timberwolves 6-5 in a shootout in Miramichi. Mike Lyle scored a pair of goals, added an assist, and scored the only goal of the shootout for the Crushers while Brett Malone scored two goals and added two assists for the Timberwolves.

Sunday would see one game on the schedule, and the Dieppe Commandos would survive a scare from the Campbellton Tigers by defeating them 4-3 in a shootout. The Tigers would build a 3-0 lead midway through the second period before the Commandos stormed back, tying the game with 12 seconds remaining. Matt Bernier and Ryan Langan both had one goal, one assist games for the Commandos while Robert Pelletier would also score a goal and an assist for the Tigers.

An update from the World Junior A Hockey Challenge. Team Canada East is winless through its first two games. They lost a close 4-3 shootout game to Team Switzerland on Sunday before losing another close affair 3-2 to the United States on Tuesday. They will meet Team Canada West in the Quarter Final on Wednesday. Lucas Batt (Amherst) leads Canada East with three points (2-1) in the pair of preliminary games, while Blade Mann-Dixon (Valley) has appeared in both games between the pipes. Mann-Dixon has stopped 64 of 70 shots (0.914 save percentage) and has a 2.88 goals against average in the two games.

Action gets back underway this Wednesday when the Summerside Western Capitals host the Dieppe Commandos.