Bearcats regain lead in MHL final

Joey Smith
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TRURO – The Truro Bearcats started quick and finished strong on Saturday to retake the lead in their Maritime Junior Hockey League final series.

Truro Bearcats goaltender Chris Festarini makes a save, as Dieppe Commandos forward Andrew Meredith looks for a rebound during Game 3 of the MHL final series on Saturday in Truro.

Captain Phil Fife scored just 1:18 into the game and the Bearcats were at their stingiest-best throughout the contest in a 3-1 victory over the Dieppe Commandos in Game 3 of the Kent Cup final.

The Bearcats take a 2-1 series lead into Game 4 on Monday in Dieppe. Game 5 is in Truro on Tuesday at 7 p.m.

The win was Truro’s 10th in 11 post-season games and extended its home-ice winning streak in the playoffs to six games. 

“We knew we had to win at home, going back there (on Monday), so it was good to get the lead again here,” said Bearcats forward Colby Lanceleve, who had two assists and was named the game’s first star.

The Bearcats got off to a great start when Fife took a pass from Jacob Smith and beat Commandos goaltender Connor Wilkinson to the glove side with a one-timer from the slot to the delight of 1,578 fans at the Rath Eastlink Community Centre.

“They have a really good team over there and to get the first goal in our barn to get the crowd into it, it’s obviously huge,” said Fife, who scored his fifth goal of the playoffs.

The game was a near carbon copy of Truro’s Game 1 victory, where the Bearcats held the Commandos at bay for the most of the night. Many of Dieppe’s 28 shots came from the perimeter and goaltender Chris Festarini had a good look at most of the rubber he faced.

The lone puck to elude Festarini was a Justin McDonald point blast with two minutes left in third that snuck through the netminder’s pads on a 6-on-4 Dieppe advantage.

“They have a lot of guys that can put the puck in the net, and I think our D is doing a good job of keeping them wide, and when they do get a good scoring opportunity Chris Festarini has been fantastic for us,” Fife said.

Brandon Pye’s power-play goal at 11:11 of the first period stood as the winner. Pye picked up a rebound to the right of Wilkinson and beat the netminder with a hard, low shot.

Kyle Tibbo made it 3-0 at 12:48 of the third with his team-leading eighth playoff goal. Tibbo, a rookie, converted a 2-on-1 pass from Lanceleve, beating Wilkinson with a wrist shot. Defenceman Daniel Poliziani started the play by taking advantage of poor line change by the Commandos and quickly moving the puck up ice to Lanceleve.

The game featured a little bit of nasty for the first time in the series, as both teams laid a bit of lumber and chirped each other from the benches late in the game.

“That’s just playoff hockey,” Fife said. “If you’re playing for the Kent Cup both teams want to win so badly, that’s just part of the game.”

The Bearcats realize they have a great opportunity to put the Commandos in a deep hole on Monday at the Arthur J. LeBlanc Arena.  

“The opportunity is there, but they’re a great hockey team and I’m sure we’ll get their very best game for Game 4 in Dieppe and it’s gonna be tough,” Fife said.

The Bearcats were 1-for-6 on the powerplay Saturday, while the Commandos were 1-for-7.

Organizations: Game 4, Rath Eastlink Community Centre

Geographic location: Dieppe

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