The Pictou County Weeks Crushers have been officially eliminated from the MHL playoffs.
The Crushers lost 4-2 to the visiting Truro Bearcats on Tuesday at the Pictou County Wellness Centre. They entered the game eight points behind the Bearcats with only a mathematical chance of claiming the fourth and final playoff spot in the league’s South Division.
It’s the first time since the franchise moved to Pictou County that the Crushers have missed the playoffs. It’s also a huge tumble from their dominating regular season in 2016-17 before they were upset in the first playoff round a year ago.
“Our goal every season is to be playing in April,” Crushers assistant coach and general manager Chad McDavid said. “We knew going in that this season, especially our division, was going to be tough with every team positioning themselves for a long playoff run. We were just on the wrong side of too many close hockey games this season.”
The Bearcats led 1-0 after one period and took a 3-0 lead in the second period before goals by Jacob Hickey in the second period and Giancarlo Fiori in the third period brought the Crushers to within one goal of the lead. The Bearcats added an empty-net goal with 11 seconds to play.
The Crushers outshot Truro 32-22.
The game was re-scheduled after having been previously postponed due to inclement weather.
Michael Dill was recognized before the game for having become the leading scorer in Crushers’ history.
Dill passed former Crusher Mitch Deruelle during the Crushers’ MHL game on February 16 against the South Shore Lumberjacks with 210 points in 161 games based on 84 goals and 126 assists.
Dill is from Windsor, N.S. and has played parts of four seasons with the Crushers. He had 25 goals and 26 assists for 51 points in 47 regular-season games in his first full season in 2015-16.
His most productive season was in 2016-17 when he accumulated 32 goals and 58 assists for 90 points in 50 regular-season games. He added six goals and nine assists in seven playoff games.
He leads the Crushers this season with 19 goals and 34 assists for 53 points in 43 games.
“It’s a great accomplishment for Michael, especially when you consider he did it in 41 less games,” McDavid said. “He has worked extremely hard over the past three seasons and it’s nice to see him get rewarded.”
The Crushers lost two games last week before posting a 6-1 victory over the host St. Stephen Aces on Saturday.
The visiting Amherst Ramblers topped the Crushers 4-2 last Thursday, while the Crushers lost 4-3 to the host Woodstock Slammers on Friday.
Nicholas Jessome and Marc Gagnon each collected two goals and two assists, while Dill added one goal and four assists against the Aces. Alex Bonaparte also scored.
The Crushers outshot the Aces 61-20, including 23-2 in the third period.
In Woodstock, the Crushers led 2-0 after the first period and 3-2 entering the third period on goals by Dill, Gagnon and Dylan Riley.
Against the Ramblers, Gagnon and Bonaparte scored for the Crushers, who trailed 2-1 after the first period and 4-2 after the second period despite outshooting the Ramblers 30-25.
The Crushers have five games left in March that include hosting the South Shore Lumberjacks on Thursday and the Slammers on Saturday in two 7 p.m. starters at the Wellness Centre.
The Bearcats will visit the Crushers on March 8 between two trips for the Crushers to St. Stephen on March 6 and Amherst on March 10.
Olympic women’s hockey silver medalist Blayre Turnbull drops the puck between Bearcats captain Campbell Pickard, left, and Crushers captain Michael Dill. Pickard and Dill are point leaders for their respective clubs. (Goodwin photo)