Pictou County hosts Bridgewater tonight
NEW GLASGOW – Thursday night the Weeks Crushers can take over top spot in the MHL with a victory over the Bridgewater Lumberjacks.
© BRANDON CAMPBELL - THE NEWS
The Weeks Crushers are hosting the Bridgewater Lumberjacks for the second time this season at home. They have defeated them in both regular season meetings, 5-2 and 10-0.
The Crushers are 2-0 this season against the Lumberjacks, who are currently last in the league. Although numbers may be on their side, last week it took a shootout for Pictou County to beat the Campbellton Tigers. Head coach Jason Malone said those games happen regardless of what the stats on paper say.
“We always go into Campbellton knowing it was going to be a battle and we had our scoring chances and had four goal posts that game,” he said. “We were right there. It was a frustrating game offensively for us, but defensively we were fairly tight. Brandon (Thibeau) played an excellent game and obviously the guys stepped up in the shootout, so there’s always an expectation to beat teams that are below you in the standings, but they’re a tough team to play against. We were happy with the result of getting two points. It’s always, obviously a plus to get two on the road.”
Pictou County is also riding a six-game win streak into tonight’s game against the Lumberjacks. During that stretch they have outscored opponents 29-8, including two shutouts by Thibeau.
Malone said his team has put in a better effort in recent weeks not only during games, but also in practice.
“I think especially the past couple of weeks our tempo in practice has gone up and our guys realize that in practice we need to be focused and have a plan,” said Malone. “We need to execute that in practice for that to turn over into a game. Our goals against over the past five games has been extremely low and that’s just evidence of guys working hard in practice and really trying to focus on the little things.
“Obviously the addition of Tanner (McCabe) back there who is a big steady defenceman and focuses on defence first. He’s definitely helped that as well.”
Goaltending has also played a big role in their success this season. Thibeau leads the MHL in shutouts and is second in save percentage. He was also named the MHL’s second star this week because of his performance last weekend.
“Brandon’s definitely hot, there’s no question about that,” said Malone. “Devan (Tremblay) is going to get the start against Bridgewater and we’ll see how he plays. If we’re comfortable with him then he may get the start in Amherst as well. We’re very fortunate to have two very good goaltenders here. Obviously Brandon is riding a high and was second star this week and this is as good as I’ve seen him as compared to last year in the playoffs versus Truro, so he’s right there at the top of his game, but we don’t want to overdo it with him.”
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Forward John Mullally and defenceman Evan MacEachern will be out of the lineup again this weekend as they’re still with team Canada East at the World Junior A Challenge. Malone said they definitely noticed a void without them in the lineup last weekend on their road trip to Northern New Brunswick, but pointed to Lucas Blomquist as a standout player last weekend. He also added that a number of forwards stepped up as well.
“It’s tough and you don’t realize you miss something until you don’t have it,” said Malone. “Evan is so good with the puck and such a nice skater and Johnny is an impact guy on your forecheck and he’s a guy that can score timely goals. Our guys managed it really well. We went into Campbellton and Miramichi and played two really good hockey games. While we missed them we had other guys step up, especially on our back end.
“We do miss them, but they’re soaking it all in down in Yarmouth and probably having the time of their lives getting to pull on that Canadian jersey every day.”
Thursday night 19-year-old defenceman Cole Hutchinson will be also be in the Crushers’ lineup for the first time. He was recently released by the QMJHL’s Charlottetown Islanders after being in and out of their lineup this season.
“I attended Islanders camp and saw he was in attendance as a free agent invite,” said Malone. “I liked what I saw. He’s a mobile defenceman with grit to his game, but he also gets around the ice well. His was owned by Kanata, so we called them and got a deal done to get his rights knowing he was going to be in Charlottetown for as long as possible. His father approached us last night about him coming here to join our organization and we’re thrilled to have him join our club.
“The Charlottetown Islanders organization were great to work with through this process, especially with a few hoops to jump through to get him here. They definitely helped us get him here quickly.”
Goals for: 75
Goals against: 42
Record against Bridgewater: 2-0-0
Vs. Bridgewater Lumberjacks
Goals for: 42
Goals against: 90
Game time: 7 p.m. at the Pictou County Wellness Centre