WESTVILLE ROAD – It’s the first huge game of 2018 for the Junior A Crushers.
The Truro Bearcats – the team the Crushers are trying to catch in the Maritime Hockey League’s South Division standings – will come to the Pictou County Wellness Centre on Thursday for a 7 p.m. tilt.
“It's a big game,” Alex Bonaparte said matter-of-factly. “And we want to keep playing the way we've been playing lately. I think we're starting to gel now and getting closer as a group.”
The Crushers, after a November to forget, have pieced together a 3-1-1 run in their last five games, including a 5-2 road win over the Amherst Ramblers last Sunday. That, coupled with the Bearcats’ recent slide (a 1-6-1 record in their past eight), has Pictou County within four points of Truro, who sit in the final playoff spot in the South. The Crushers also have two games in hand on Truro.
Crushers coach Doug Doull downplayed the significance of the Truro game, when compared to others on the schedule.
“They are all big games. This one coming up is as important as last Sunday and next Saturday (a home game against the Edmundston Blizzard).”
Crushers winger Dylan Riley called the win over Amherst “huge, a hell of a way to end 2017. We needed that – we’re almost in a do-or-die situation already.”
The game against Truro looms large, as well. “It’s a four-point game and we really need it.”
Riley, the MHL rookie of the year a season ago, has started to heat up just as the winter cold sets in, similar to his freshman campaign: he has seven goals and three assists in his past six games.
“Dylan needs to play tenacious,” said Doull, who in December suggested that the 19-year-old is more effective when he’s got fire in his belly and hate in his heart.
“All his good fortune is coming from the extra stride right now – getting underneath the hands of defenders and (being strong on) pucks.”
• Michael Dill has a six-game points streak going (three goals, seven assists).
• Alex Bonaparte broke a 15-game goal drought against Amherst on Dec. 31. “It felt awesome. I’m hoping to keep it rolling,” the assistant captain said.
• The Crushers have won two of their three games versus Truro this season.
• Back in Black: With the arrival of a new year, the Crushers will be wearing their predominantly black jerseys for home games until the regular season ends.
BY THE NUMBERS
Pictou County Crushers
Record: 11-13-3 (5th place, South Division)
Top Scorers: Jacob Hickey (15G, 12A), Michael Dill (10G, 17A), Dylan Riley (13G, 13A).
Stats Say: Defenceman Marc Gagnon has six assists in four games played since his return from injury.
Record: 14-14-1 (4th place, South Division)
Top Scorers: Campbell Pickard (19, 20A), Cameron MacLeod (10G, 9A), Riley Baggs (5G, 14A).
Stats Say: The Bearcats are not only at the .500 mark, they’ve scored the same amount of goals (80) as they’ve allowed.