All season long, the Truro Bearcats played second fiddle to the Summerside Western Capitals.
After finishing with the Maritime Hockey League’s second-best regular season record, behind the Western Capitals, Truro reached the MHL final, where it fell in five games, to the Western Capitals.
But the third time was the charm for the Bearcats, who played host to the Fred Page Cup and beat Summerside not once, but twice to win the East Region championship and clinch their first-ever berth at the RBC Cup.
“It’s still pretty surreal,” Bearcats goaltender Shayne Campbell told the Truro Daily News the day after the championship game win. “It feels like a dream. The guys are still pretty high right now.”
Truro started its season strong, finished strong, and wasn’t too bad in between, fashioning a 38-9-5 record, scoring more goals than any other MHL team and allowing fewer than every team except Summerside.
Half of the Bearcats’ wins came in a pair of bookending winning streaks – they won 10 in a row to start the regular season before wrapping up their schedule with nine consecutive victories, leaving them just seven points behind the Western Capitals.
The high-powered offence was led by scoring star Kyle Morrison, who doubled up every other Bearcat, finishing with a league-leading 88 points, 44 more than second-place Travis Moore.
Despite the successful regular season, Truro’s MHL playoff run was almost a short one – the Bearcats lost the first two games of their quarter-final to Pictou County and needed seven games to eliminate the Crushers before knocking off Amherst in six to advance to the MHL final.
Facing a Summerside team that had lost just once in its last 33 games, the Bearcats stayed right with the Western Capitals, winning Game 2 in double overtime and losing three games by just a single goal before a 3-0 defeat in Game 5 ended the series.
The momentum from a long playoff run carried into the Fred Page Cup for Truro, which rolled undefeated through the preliminary round on home ice, beating Longueuil, Cornwall and Summerside to earn a bye to the final.
When the Western Capitals beat Cornwall in overtime in the semifinal, it meant the Bearcats would advance to the RBC Cup regardless of the outcome of the final, but Truro saw it as a game with meaning.
“We’re happy to be going to nationals, but we just want to focus on tomorrow’s game,” Truro defenceman Ryan Moore told the Halifax Chronicle-Herald after the Summerside-Cornwall semifinal. “It didn’t matter to us who won tonight. We’re looking at tomorrow. We want to go to Summerside as winners of the Fred Page.”
And that’s exactly what the Bearcats did, getting the game-winner from Philip Fife 16 minutes into the second overtime to win the East Region title and deny Summerside the right to enter Canada’s National Junior A Championship as league and regional champions.
The 207-kilometre trip between Truro and Summerside is the shortest for any competing team since 1998, when the South Surrey Eagles made the 113-kilometre journey to Nanaimo, B.C., and won the national title.
HOW THEY GOT TO SUMMERSIDE
Maritime Hockey League
Quarter-final: defeated Pictou County 4-3 (1-3, 3-4, 6-3, 5-3, 2-1 2OT, 2-4, 3-1)
Semifinal: defeated Amherst 4-2 (2-3, 5-3, 7-2, 3-4, 3-2, 4-2)
MHL championship: lost to Summerside 4-1 (3-4, 4-3 2OT, 2-3, 2-3 2OT, 0-3)
Fred Page Cup
Preliminary round: 3-0 – 1st place (defeated Longueuil 4-1, defeated Cornwall 6-2, defeated Summerside 3-2)
Final: defeated Summerside 3-2 2OT
Regular Season Record: 38-9-5 (2nd in MHL)
Goals For: 226 (1st in MHL)
Goals Against: 124 (2nd in MHL)
Power Play: 24.9% (2nd in MHL)
Penalty Killing: 83.2% (4th in MHL)
Longest Winning Streak: 10 (Sept. 14-Oct. 20)
Top 3 Scorers:
Playoff Record: 13-9
Goals For: 73
Goals Against: 58
Power Play: 18.6% MHL / 28.6% Fred Page Cup
Penalty Killing: 78.3% MHL / 88.2% Fred Page Cup
Top 3 Scorers:
NATIONAL JUNIOR A CHAMPIONSHIP HISTORY
PLAYERS TO WATCH
calm goaltender … technically solid … reads the play well … communicates well with defencemen … very good focus … challenges shooters well … moves well laterally … very confident
reliable two-way defenceman … tremendous vision when manning the point … hard-nosed player … hard, accurate shot … good offensive instincts … not afraid to jump into the rush
highly-skilled forward … tremendous puck handler … high hockey IQ … deceptive skater … good offensive flair … excellent hands in tight … uses his teammates well … knows how to score