Pictou County’s goal to build towards playoff stretch
NEW GLASGOW – It wasn’t their best effort and it wasn’t exactly the final they wanted, but the Weeks Crushers picked up a win and two points on Saturday.
© CHRISTOPHER CAMERON - THE NEWS
Weeks Crushers forward Garrett Lambke taps the puck past Bridgewater Lumberjacks goalie Jeff Arkin during the first period of Saturday’s game at the Pictou County Wellness Centre. Lambke’s goal helped the Crushers win 5-3 to open the second half of the season.
Their 5-3 victory over the Bridgewater Lumberjacks improves their record to 4-1 against them this season, with a final regular season meeting on the road on Feb. 28.
Having not played since Dec. 19 the Crushers returned to town for practice on Thursday, which went well according to forward Stephen MacInnis. Their practice Friday was cancelled due to weather, which changed up their plans for the week and getting back into game shape as they held a morning skate on Saturday.
“It was only our second time on the ice (since the break), so there was a little rust out there for sure, but I think our effort was there tonight,” said MacInnis. “There was a couple breakdowns in our defensive zone that led to a couple goals by them, but for the most part we had a pretty good effort.”
MacInnis led the team on Saturday night with two goals, one of which was the eventual game-winning goal, and an assist. His linemate Garrett Lambke also potted a goal in the Crushers victory.
“It was a new year and I tried to start out – I was getting my chances before Christmas – but I wasn’t really scoring,” said MacInnis. “I guess I just barred down and it just seemed like the bounces were going our way for me and my whole line. We were cycling the puck well and started gelling right before Christmas before breaking out a bit tonight. It was good for all three of us.”
Nick Parker opened the scoring for Pictou County 5:38 into the first period, with Lambke’s goal giving them a 2-0 lead after the first period. They outshot Bridgewater 16-4 in the frame.
Mitchell Deruelle scored just 1:15 into the second to extend the lead to three before Brendan Nickerson’s goal at the 4:17 mark.
MacInnis scored his first of the game shorthanded with just under seven minutes remaining in the period to take a 4-1 lead into the final 20 minutes of regulation. Their onslaught of shots continued, outshooting the Lumberjacks 26-6 in the period.
Matt Wright cut the lead to two 8:54 into the third before MacInnis scored his second of the game just three minutes later.
“We had our chances to score – a lot of chances and stuff – but we knew that it was a couple bad bounces that went in and we decided to keep to the game plan, stay focused and rebound on the next shift,” said MacInnis on rebounding from the Lumberjacks goals.
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Connor Hilton scored with four minutes remaining, but Brandon Thibeau’s 23 save performance was enough for his 16th win of the season and 5-3 victory.
Jeff Arkin made 45 saves in the Lumberjacks loss.
Picking up two points was the most important part of the game according to MacInnis. Coming back from the break they want focus on continuously building towards the playoffs and finding ways to improve each day at practice or in a game.
“I think the biggest thing for our group is working every time we’re on the ice to always get better and I think that with the group in here we all work hard, so the more opportunities we have to get on the ice and get better as a team will show throughout the run of the year,” he said.
This season the Crushers have been working with Kyle MacLennan as a strength and conditioning coach, which has been a major benefit to the team according to MacInnis. He said they won’t know the real fruits of their labour until later in the season, a point the coaching staff believed the players struggled with last year.
“The big thing at the start of the year was they said with this group last year coming down to the playoff stretch it seemed like we were getting a little bit tired and that was a big reason why they brought Kyle in here and I really think it’s going to pay off at the end as well,” he said. “Like I said, working hard on and off the ice is going to make us a better team, so I think what he’s got us doing, lifting weights twice a week in the gym and other off-ice stuff will make a big difference come playoff time.”
Thursday night Pictou County is home to the Yarmouth Mariners. Puck drop is 7 p.m.
This season they are 1-1 against Yarmouth and sit eight points ahead of them in the standings.
On Twitter: @NGNewsChris