Before touching on what the Weeks Crushers have ahead of them this week (and likely) this weekend, credit needs to be given where it’s due.
In my first column of 2013 I said the Crushers would win, at most, 11 games in their final 20. They won 13. I also said they were struggling against the top teams and they picked up their only regular season wins against the Truro Bearcats after Christmas on top of knocking off Yarmouth once and Amherst a pair of times. They deserve credit for showing a different side to themselves.
Some have argued the trade in December bringing Tim Rose and Evan Carmody made a difference or that having Mitchell Deruelle join the team again was the reason for their success. I wouldn’t say that’s entirely right or wrong because players who have been here all season stepped up their game in the second half.
That said, they have a few challenges ahead of them now playing the Eastlink Division mini-series against the CIBC Wood Gundy Lumberjacks, up 1-0.
Tim Rose suffered an foot injury in their Feb. 21 game in Amherst, sidelining him for four to six weeks, which would likely mean he would make it back for the division final at the earliest if that time frame stays the same.
They should have no issue finishing out the mini-series on Wednesday or Thursday night (if necessary) to advance to the division semifinal against the Truro Bearcats.
The top team in the division sat in second place throughout the majority of the season, but similar to the Crushers both teams seem to be peaking at the right time as the Bearcats had a strong finish to move into first. They defeated the Yarmouth Mariners twice in their final five games, with their most recent loss being Feb. 10.
The Crushers won four of their final five games.
Both teams have a world of hate towards each other for whatever reason and after talking to Jordan McInnis in mid-February about the rivalry it’s obvious that each team gets up for these matchups in particular.
They have also both moved into new arenas this season, with both showing that their new homes are their turf and it’s not a “neutral” site, although Truro has only played three games in the Rath Eastlink Community Centre (wins over Metro, Yarmouth and Woodstock).
I believe the key for the Crushers to be successful Wednesday and into any future series will be rolling four lines as much as possible because the Bearcats had this week off to rest before the semifinal, while Pictou County has been in action. To do this they will have to stay disciplined so they aren’t over utilizing particular players in penalty killing roles like they have in a few of their games down the stretch (seven penalty kills Monday against Bridgewater).
It will also be important in Game 2 to have a team effort throughout the entire game. Throughout the season captain Nick Parker, amongst other players, has said that the team seems to be more prepared for top teams as opposed to lower teams. Although they are in fourth and the Lumberjacks sit in fifth there is a 38-point difference between the two teams.
In their final regular season meeting they beat Bridgewater 4-0 on the road, but in Game 1 of the mini-series went down 3-0 after one period before their 5-3 comeback victory.
This team has stepped up their effort and play in the second half, but will need to find that next gear that they’ve shown shades of throughout the final half of the season on a consistent basis if they want to be in Truro for the Fred Page Cup in May.
Christopher Cameron is the sports reporter for The News and can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter: @NGNewsChris.