By Tina Comeau
Officially the Yarmouth Mariners haven’t started the playoffs yet.
Although if you ask head coach Laurie Barron he’ll tell you differently.
Barron has decided to liken the last 16 games of the Mariners’ regular season to back-to-back playoff series.
“We just won our first series four games to one,” he said after a Feb. 5, 2-1 win over the Metro Shipbuilders.
Twelve wins in those 16 games, Barron said, would mimic a championship.
The Mariners are looking to finish the regular season strong, which is a feat they certainly accomplished the year before when they had a 10-game win streak to finish out the season in first place in their division.
Breathing down the Mariners’ necks in the Eastlink Division in past weeks have been Truro and Amherst. The Mariners play their last game of the season against the Amherst Ramblers at the Mariners Centre on Friday, Feb. 15, before hosting Dieppe the following night. The Mariners host the Truro Bearcats on Friday, March 1 and play them in Truro on Sunday, March 3.
In an interview last week, Barron admitted he hasn’t been ecstatic with his team’s play at the start of the month.
“All-in-all I can’t complain, but I want to squeeze a little bit more out,” he said.
Last Sunday the Mariners came back in the third period to tie Dieppe 3-3, but fell to the Commandos in overtime. Before their home games this weekend the Mariners play the Crushers in Pictou on Thursday night.
About some of the new, and returning, recent additions to the roster, Barron said he is pleased with what Brandon Bussey and Paul Lamoureux have added to the team. And in the case of Kyle Campbell – who played with the team a couple of seasons ago – what he has brought back.
As for between the pipes, Barron said that Travis Wilkins continues to be their go-to guy, but Chase Gaudet has also seen a fair amount of play since his return.
“Chase is pushing him, and if there was ever a problem you know that you’ve got a real strong combination,” Barron said. “But Wilks, he got us to the dance and he’s our go-to guy.”
Meanwhile, when it comes to wrapping up the rest of the MHL regular season, which is scheduled to end March 8 with playoffs to follow, Barron said the biggest thing for the Mariners is to make sure they’re playing their best hockey.
“You can’t really control everyone else, so all we can do is worry about ourselves,” he said.
Asked for any closing thoughts, Barron could not let the opportunity slip away to say how excited the team has been to be playing in front of packed houses at the Mariners Centre, where attendance reaches as high as 1,501.
“You don’t realize how much it means until you go to Halifax and play in front of 153 people. That’s brutal,” Barron said, referring to the number of hockey fans in the stands for their game against the Shipbuilders last week. ”It's so empty you can hear people whisper. I heard our boys even commenting that they feel so bad for those guys having to play in an empty rink.”