Bearcats edge Commandos in thriller

Joey Smith
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TRURO – A furious comeback set up a thrilling finish and has the Truro Bearcats on the verge of a third Maritime Junior Hockey League championship.

Truro defencemen Cal Gloade and Ryan Moore clear traffic in front of Chris Festarini during Game 5 of the Maritime Junior Hockey League Kent Cup final in Truro on Tuesday. The Bearcats won 5-4 for a 3-2 series lead.

The Bearcats rallied from a 3-1 deficit in the final period and got a late power-play goal from Jordan McNaughton in a 5-4 win over the Dieppe Commandos on Tuesday in Game 5 of the Kent Cup final series.

Truro leads the best-of-seven affair 3-2 and can win the title on Thursday in Dieppe (Arthur J. LeBlanc Arena, 7:30 p.m.) Game 7, if necessary, will be played Saturday in Truro, beginning at 7 p.m.

The home team has won every game in the series.

McNaughton notched the winner with 43 seconds remaining in the contest, as he took a pass from Brandon Pye and wired a slap shot from the top of the left faceoff circle that beat Commandos goalie Connor Wilkinson high to the glove side and whipped a crowd of 1,097 into a frenzy at the Rath Eastlink Community Centre. 

“(Pye) got it back to me and I looked up and saw the far side open, so I just let it go and hoped for the best,” McNaughton said of the goal, his second of the night. “There’s not a much better feeling than scoring the game winner, but I give credit to the guys – they were down front battling and got it back to me.”

The goal came with Mathieu Martin of the Commandos in the penalty box serving a four-minute penalty. Martin was assessed a tripping minor with 1:34 left and given an additional two minutes for unsportsmanlike conduct after arguing the call.

It was a tough way to lose a game, said Commandos head coach Jeff LeBlanc.

“It’s a weird time to call a penalty like that, especially with the magnitude of that hockey game,” LeBlanc said. “But, sometimes that happens in hockey. Sometimes people want to have an outcome on a game that they have no business having an outcome on and that was it tonight, for sure.

“They worked so hard all game and for it to end like that, it’s actually a disservice to those kids.”

The Bearcats trailed 2-1 after two periods and found themselves down 3-1 at 3:19 of the third after Joel Blanchard netted a power-play goal for the visitors.

Cue the comeback.

McNaughton made it a one-goal game at 6:48 by scoring on his own rebound, while Jacob Smith tied it 42 seconds later on a sweet redirect on a feed from Pye. Mitchell Robillard gave the Bearcats the lead just over a minute later by redirecting a McNaughton pass down low that beat Wilkinson high to the blocker side.

Matt Bernier got the Commandos back on even terms with a power-play goal with 6:40 remaining, beating Chris Festarini with a point shot, before McNaughton’s heroics in the final minute.

“I think it shows the character that our team has to come back, and that’s big going into Thursday’s game,” McNaughton said.

Rookie Kyle Tibbo also scored for the Bearcats. Tibbo is tied with Blanchard for the playoff lead in goals with 10 in 13 games. Thierry Comtois and Martin had other goals for the Commandos.

Festarini made 23 saves, while Wilkinson had 31 stops.

Truro was one-for-five on the power play and Dieppe was two-for-four.

Truro is trying to win its first Maritime league title since 2007. The Bearcats also won in 2005.

Organizations: Rath Eastlink Community Centre

Geographic location: Dieppe

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