Newfoundland and Labrador's Gushue beats Canada's Koe for first Brier title
ST. JOHN'S, N.L. _ When Brad Gushue was a youngster, he wrote his 10 goals in curling on a sheet of Bristol board.
The first round of MHL playoffs sees the Yarmouth Mariners and the Truro Bearcats paired off.
YARMOUTH, N.S. – After first hitting the ice in September, the Yarmouth Junior A Mariners wrapped up their regular season on the weekend and have now set their sights on playoffs and the Truro Bearcats.
After finishing third in their division, the Mariners will play the second-place Bearcats in one of two Eastlink South Division best-of-seven-games semi-finals. The other division semi-final sees Amherst, which finished fourth, paired up with Pictou, which finished the regular season in first place.
We feel being a young team we’ve had a few growing pains, but all in all it’s been a real successful season. Mariners head coach Laurie Barron
The MHL moves into playoffs this week after completing its 50-game regular season – the 50-game schedule reflected the league's 50th anniversary. For the teams involved in the playoffs, the past is the past and it’s the present that matters.
In saying that though, even heading into their final two games this past weekend the Mariners still didn’t know if they’d be playing first-place Pictou or second-place Truro. Going into the weekend Yarmouth sat three points ahead of fourth-place Amherst who had three games remaining.
But the Mariners 6-1 win over a short-benched Valley Wildcats on Friday night, coupled with Amherst's 4-2 loss to Campbellton sealed the division standings.
The Mariners wrapped up their season Saturday night at home with a 4-3 shootout win over South Shore, giving Yarmouth 70 points for the season – a far cry from the 26 points the team could only manage last year.
Final MHL 2016-2017 regular season standings
The series between the Mariners and the Bearcats opens Thursday, March 16 in Truro. The team to reach four wins will take the series. The playoff schedule is:
• Game 1: Thursday, March 16, Yarmouth @ Truro 7 p.m.
• Game 2: Saturday, March 18, Truro @ Yarmouth 7:30 p.m.
• Game 3: Monday, March 20, Yarmouth @ Truro 7 p.m.
• Game 4: Wednesday, March 22, Truro @ Yarmouth 7:30 p.m.
• Game 5: Saturday, March 25, Yarmouth @ Truro 7 p.m. (If needed)
• Game 6: Sunday, March 26, Truro @ Yarmouth 7:30 p.m. (If needed)
• Game 7: Tuesday, March 28, Yarmouth @ Truro 7 p.m. (If needed)
Heading into playoffs, Yarmouth coach Laurie Barron said the team was looking forward to being a fuller squad again.
“We were beat up pretty good. We had a bunch of injuries,” he said, but most who had been sidelined, including his son Matthew with an eye injury, are back in the lineup.
Barron said one thing that sticks out in his mind heading into playoffs is last year the third and fourth seeds both won their first rounds in the Mariners’ division.
“The third seed ended up winning the division,” he said. “We feel like we could be that type of team.”
The Mariners started out strong in the fall with a 12-game win streak. Heading into the final weekend, six of their season losses had come in overtime or a shootout. Other times they were edged out by a goal.
“We've been so close,” Barron said about some of the losses. “We feel being a young team we’ve had a few growing pains, but all in all it’s been a real successful season.”
Mariners captain Ryan Daley says the team is ready for playoffs, which he calls the start of a whole new season. Pictured on the ice here during a season game against Pictou, the Mariners will have to get past Truro for a shot at the division final.
Mariners captain Ryan Daley feels good about the team’s chances heading into playoffs.
“To turn it from a 13-win season last year to a 30-plus win season is pretty impressive,” he said.
Asked what he sees as one of the key turning points this year from last, Daley said, “I think the coaching staff had a big impact, and the players that were brought in, they just brought in all the right pieces. . . And everyone had a winning mentality right out of the gate. Starting out 12-0, we had a lot of confidence.”
Daley is one of five 20 year olds on the team who are playing their last season in junior A. The others are Justin Ritcey, Lawrence Lyver, Max Robitaille and Alex Mann.
“When playoffs start it’s a whole new season,” he said. “Teams play differently. For our five 20-year-olds it’s out last season, we’re going to give it our all.”
The fact that they’ll be doing it in front of a supportive home fan base helps too.
“Yarmouth is definitely the best place to play, in my opinion, with the fan support and the town just loves hockey,” Daley said.
The Yarmouth Mariners and the Truro Bearcats will play each other in the first round of playoffs.
THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT MHL PLAYOFFS
How did they stack up?
During the regular season the Yarmouth did better playing Pictou than the team did playing Truro.
The Mariners won three of their six games versus the Pictou County Crushers, but lost all 6 regular season games they played against Truro.
Back in the game
Last year Yarmouth and Amherst were the odd teams out when it came to the division playoffs. This year both teams remain in the running.
Sitting out the playoffs this year in the Eastlink South Division are the South Shore Lumberjacks and the Valley Wildcats.
The other division
The number-one ranked Miramichi Timberwolves will play the St. Stephen Aces in the semi-finals of the Eastlink North Division. The Dieppe Commandos will host the Summerwise Western Capitals.