The Pictou County Weeks Crushers heave already found out what a handful the Amherst Ramblers could be in their first MHL playoff series.
The Crushers needed Dylan Riley’s goal in the second overtime on Thursday to pull out a 5-4 victory in the first game of the best-of-seven semifinal series at the Pictou County Wellness Centre. They will meet in Amherst on Saturday for the second game.
The third game will be on Monday at 7 p.m. at the Wellness Centre, while the Ramblers will host the fourth game next Wednesday.
The fifth game, if necessary, is scheduled for March 24 at 7 p.m. at the Keating Millennium Centre in Antigonish.
The Crusher outshot the Ramblers 50-37 over the game but needed Bradley Kennedy’s goal with 29 seconds left in the third period to force overtime.
Michael Dill scored to give the Crushers an early 1-0 lead but the Ramblers tied the game later in the first period.
Ethan Marsh’s two goals helped the Crushers to a 3-2 lead in the second period, but the Ramblers scored twice in the third period to force Kennedy’s heroics.
The Crushers drew the Ramblers after finishing first in their division, while the Ramblers ended up fourth. The other division series pits the Truro Bearcats against the Yarmouth Mariners. The winners of the series will vie for division honours and a chance to play for the Kent Cup.
The Crushers are defending Kent Cup champions and appear to have the talent to defend the title. They finished first by seven points ahead of the Bearcats, whom they defeated 5-1 last Thursday in their last regular-season home game.
The Crushers followed on Friday with a 10-5 romp against the host South Shore Lumberjacks.
In that game, Kennedy continued his torrid scoring spree with four goals and three assists, while Benji Curtis added two goals and three assists and Nick Fewer also scored twice.
Michael Dill ensured himself the league’s scoring title with two assists, while Alexis Roy and Dylan Riley each collected one goal and one assist.
Riley tallied twice and Kennedy, Curtis and Quinten Johnson got the Crushers’ other goals on Thursday against the Bearcats.
The atmosphere was festive with more than 1,300 fans at the game.
Dill had two assists and Roy collected one assist that made the difference in Dill’s favour.
Dill ended the season with 32 goals and 58 assists for 90 points, while Roy had a team-high 37 goals and added 52 assists for 89 points.
Both players overtook Kyle Tibbo of the Bearcats, who ended with 47 goals and 41 assists for 88 points.
The Crushers finished the regular season with 79 points based on 38 wins and nine regulation losses. They finished with 265 goals and scored 120 more goals than they allowed. Their 1,585 penalty minutes topped the league.
The Crushers’ scoring percentage on the power play was 31.3, while they killed 85 per cent of their penalties, both tops in the league.
Crushers forward Dylan Riley turns with the puck on Thursday during their MHL game against the Truro Bearcats. The Crushers won the game 5-1. (Goodwin photo)