NEW GLASGOW – There were completely different environments at both ends of the Pictou County Wellness Centre tonight – lots of excitement around the Wildcats room, while the Crushers were quiet.
In their fourth meeting of the season the Valley Wildcats got their first win, 5-4 over the Weeks Crushers. Their win is their second straight, while the loss was Pictou County’s fifth straight.
“We’re struggling right now to find a way to win hockey games where in the first half we were finding ways to win games,” said Crushers head coach Jason Malone. “We’re a little short-staffed and when that happens guys have got to step and perform at a different level. That goes from the net out.”
The Wildcats opened the scoring in the first period as the Crushers knocked the puck into their own net. Brandon Thibeau made the initial stop, but as Jordan McInnis was coming back on defence continued into Thibeau and the net, knocking the puck in, while the net came off. The goal stood with Brad Ryckman getting credit for his first of the game.
Nick Parker tied the game 1-1 just 1:10 later, but Pat MacIsaac would give the Wildcats a 2-1 lead after one period with a goal of his own with 19 seconds remaining in the opening frame.
Ryckman opened the scoring in the second, giving Valley a two-goal lead that stood until the final five minutes of the period when Garrett Holmes took a Mitchell Deruelle pass intended for Nick Parker and buried it into an open goal with Blade Mann-Dixon down and out.
Parker knotted the game 3-3 with 2:20 remaining in the second, but another late goal, Ryckman’s third of the game, gave the Wildcats a 4-3 after two.
On a scramble in front of the Wildcats goal early in the third JP Harvey scored for Pictou County to tie the game again, this time 4-4.
With 4:55 remaining in regulation Brady Atwater’s point shot found its way past Thibeau along the ice to give the Wildcats a 5-4 lead, which they held to beat Pictou County for the first time this season.
Thibeau made 32 saves in the loss, while Mann-Dixon made 41 saves in the Valley victory.
After the game Wildcats head coach Nick Greenough said, although the team had learned from prior meetings with the Crushers, the 'Cats were simply focused on their own game tonight.
“We took some stuff from all the games, but we’re confident in our club and our game,” he said. “If we work hard, get pucks deep, be physical – we have some fire power and some guys that can put the puck in the net. We also have Blade back there, so every game you have a chance to win. We concentrate on our game plan. If we play the way we want to we’re confident we’re going to have great games.”
Greenough said the players rely on timely saves from Mann-Dixon to hold them in games when they take chances offensively and he was up to the task against the Crushers in this game. He said the Wildcats weren’t perfect in the game, but, when they made some mistakes, Mann-Dixon kept them in contention for a victory.
“We model our team around hard work and it was really good (tonight),” he said. “We made some changes over the last couple of weeks and our guys are excited to play. Our first rule is no team is going to out work us and we went out there and worked hard, stuck up for our teammates there tonight and just got the bounces, so I’m really happy with the win.”
Pictou County is on the road Jan. 24 against Yarmouth, while the Wildcats have the night off. The two teams meet again Jan. 25 in the Valley.
“We have to come back to work tomorrow at practice and make sure we don’t get too high or too low and stay with it,” said Greenough. “It’s fun playing teams back-to-back with a little bit of a fight between the two teams tonight, so it’s going to be good to see how the clubs respond Saturday night.”
Pictou County Weeks Crushers 4
1st Nick Parker from Brandon Parsons and Tyler Doyle 5:40
2nd Garrett Holmes from Mitchell Deruelle and Nick Parker 16:05
2nd Nick Parker from Mitchell Deruelle and Daniel MacLeod 17:40 PP
3rd JP Harvey from Evan Carmody and Harrison Wood 2:41
1st Brad Ryckman 4:30
1st Pat MacIsaac from Jamie McIntyre and Mike Molloy 19:41
2nd Brad Ryckman from John Deacon 7:22
2nd Brad Ryckman from Pat MacIsaac and Kaden Ruest 19:09
3rd Brady Atwater from Austin Harding and Josh Worthen 15:05
W: Blade Mann-Diixon 41 saves
L: Brandon Thibeau 32 saves