A series that began with such promise is over and with it the MHL season for the Pictou County Crushers.
The Truro Bearcats eliminated the Crushers with a 3-1 victory Saturday in Truro in the deciding game of their best-of-seven East Link Division semifinal series. The Bearcats will advance to the division championship series that will start this week against the Amherst Ramblers, who ousted the Yarmouth Mariners in six games in their semifinal series.
Nearly 3,100 fans graced the Rath Eastlink Community Centre on Saturday to raise the Bearcats’ average playoff attendance to a team-high 2,000.
The Bearcats scored the first goal in the first period.
Jordan Moore tied the game 49 seconds into the second period, with assists from Garrett Holmes and Nick Parker, but the Bearcats went ahead to stay less than six minutes later and clinched the win with an empty-net goal with seven seconds left in the third period.
Each team had five power-play opportunities, while Truro outshot the Crushers 33-17.
The Crushers were full value for a 4-2 victory at the Pictou County Wellness Centre last Thursday that forced Saturday’s showdown in Truro.
They didn’t have the letdown midway through the series’ fourth game on March 16 when the Bearcats won 5-3 to tie the series.
“We had our chance to control the series,” Jason Malone said, referring to that loss.
Since then, he said the Crushers got back to “playing the game the right way.”
The Crushers welcomed back ace centre Mitchell Deruelle who missed the previous two games due to a two-game suspension for a hit from behind in the series’ third game.
“When you add Mitchell, it gives you a little different element,” Malone said.
The line of Mitchell, Nick Parker and Garrett Holmes was held pointless, but the Crushers got offence from elsewhere.
“We had some guys who stepped up,” Malone said.
Andrew Graham scored twice in Thursday’s game for the Crushers, who took a 2-1 lead after the first period.
Corey Bennett assisted on Graham’s second goal 12 seconds into the second period and on Evan Carmody’s power-play marker less than six minutes later to give the Crushers a 4-1 lead.
Bruce Hornbrook scored the Crushers’ other goal in the first period.
The Crushers outshot Truro 34-32 before an announced crowd of 1,891, the largest crowd of the season at the Wellness Centre.
The Crushers were placed in a must-win situation after a 2-1 loss in double overtime on March 26 in Truro.
Playing another game without Deruelle, the Crushers held their own through the first two periods and got a goal from Brandon Parsons to take a 1-0 lead in the second period.
The Bearcats tied the game in the third period while outshooting the Crushers 16-3.