PICTOU COUNTY – Entering 2013 the Pictou County Weeks Crushers sat in fourth place in the MHL’s Eastlink Division. They currently are still in fourth, but are 8-3 in the new year and are now 2-3 against the Truro Bearcats.
Assistant coach Chad McDavid said Wednesday prior to practice that tonight’s game against Truro is crucial to the Crushers for a number of reasons as they prepare for the final stretch of the regular season.
“Everyone ahead of us in our division seems to be winning so two points are important no matter what game it is, but with Truro just ahead of us the points are that much more important,” he said. “At the end of the day with Truro they’re hosting the Fred Page Cup so we want to get there and then we’ll have to go through them again. I think games that we can take from them now will show them we’re ready to compete for a championship this year too.”
Being involved with the Weeks Hockey Organization with the major midget team and now the junior A team McDavid has witnessed a number of rivalries, but said the Crushers and Bearcats rivalry is due to the strength of the Truro program. He believes the team knows they will be playing a top contender every year and time they play the Bearcats and “get up” for the games.
“I think the big thing with Truro is, ever since I’ve been involved with the team, is that Truro has always been at the top of the standings,” he said. “They always have a team that competes for a championship, so when you play teams that are competing at that level you can’t help but get up for those games and the fact they’re only 40 minutes down the highway adds a little bit. I think what it comes down to is what they are as a hockey team and they’re always towards the top of our division and it adds to those games.”
Saturday night the Crushers defeated the Bearcats for the second time this season and first time on the road, 6-5.
John Mullally, a rookie with the Crushers this season, led the team with two goals and one assist on Saturday. In the past few games Mullally has stepped into a top line role with Nick Parker and Mitchell Deruelle. He said the opportunity has made it easy for him to play his game.
“It’s really great to use my speed and with Nick and Deruelle all I really have to do is look for open ice,” he said. “They really make my job easier and even though I’ve been successful lately I can’t take all the credit because I have teammates out there with me that allow me to do what I do best and we seem to be clicking well together.
“I never thought I’d get two goals against a team like Truro like I did on Saturday, but I think it just shows how our line is working and how the team as a whole is playing.”
The team also held onto their late 6-4 lead on Saturday night, similar to holding onto the lead in other recent games, for their 6-5 win. Early in the season the Crushers allowed late goals in the third period on multiple occasions, which cost them points. McDavid said since the holiday break that the team has proven to be more mentally tough in the third, which has turned those results around.
“That’s something we’ve talked about as a staff as a trend that we’ve noticed lately,” said McDavid. “In the last month or so those close games we were losing earlier in the year we now seem to be able to buckle down and hold onto the two points. I think a lot of it comes down from the mental side of the game and our guys are learning from our mistakes and are able to play a full 60 minutes now because of those earlier games.”
Head coach Jason Malone said regardless of their success lately or proving that they can beat Truro, two points will not be easy on Thursday night.
“Nothing with Truro is ever just given,” said Malone. “Everything has to be earned. Their style of play forces teams to be at their best and execute the little things throughout a game without mistakes. To do that, our team needs to be at their best.”
Weeks Crushers (23-15-5)
Goals for: 165
Goals against: 156
Vs. Truro Bearcats (28-9-4)
Goals for: 174
Goals against: 105
Record against Bearcats: 2-3
Game time: 7 p.m. at the Pictou County Wellness Centre
On twitter: @NGNewsChris