The Valley Maple Leafs are in a must-win situation if they hope to keep their playoff dreams alive.
In a best of seven series, the Leafs trail the Sackville Blazers 3-1.
The Leafs, who started the Fred Fox Division semi-final playoffs strong, winning the first game 4-2, have lost the last three consecutive games, including two this week.
During their home game, Thursday, Feb. 28, in Berwick, it appeared as though the Leafs could break their losing streak and tie the semi-final playoff series. It was a close game until the final minutes of the third period.
Rookie Colin Gillis started the scoring off for the Leafs, giving them a first period lead of 1-0. Assists went to Luke Short and Andrew Squires.
In the second period, Sackville responded with two goals of their own, with captain Shayne Oderkirk and Brett Arthur finding the back of the net. Ross Barnhart, Ryan Davis, Jordan Keizer and Adam Brown picked up the assists. Going into the third, Sackville led 2-1.
The Leafs fought back and tied the game within the first three minutes of the third period. Short, from Gillis and Greg Brown, had the Leafs' only goal of the third period.
With less than six minutes in regulation play, the Blazers' Barnhart struck, from Oderkirk and Scott Stone, to resume control of the lead. As the clocked ticked down, the Leafs' coaching staff pulled Alex Mader in an effort to tie the game. With 29 seconds remaining on the clock, Andrew Skinner’s empty net goal sealed the deal for the Blazers.
It was a 'polite' game, with only two penalties being called in the first period, and no penalties for the remaining 40 minutes.
On Monday, Feb. 25, the Leafs lost 3-1. There was no scoring in the first period. Matt Arthur, assisted by his brother Brett, scored on the power-play midway through the second period to lead the Leafs 1-0. Mount Uniacke's Jake Galbraith, on the power-play, tied the game early in the third period. Assists when to Short and Brandon Parker. About four minutes later, Sackville's Keizer scored on the power-play from Brett Arthur, giving them the 2-1 lead.
In the last minute of play, Mader was pulled from nets to give the Leafs more manpower, but they couldn't tie it up. Brett Arthur, from Shane Boudreau, then scored on the empty net with 16 seconds remaining on the clock.
Assistant coach Erik Jackaman said the guys will have to work hard if they hope to continue on the road to the Don Johnson Cup.
“We're in a pretty big hole here so we're going to take it one game at a time,” said Jackaman, following the 4-2 loss Feb. 28.
Jackaman said the team has a few areas to work on, and will be doing so before they meet up Monday night for what could be their last game of the season.
“Overall we played pretty well,” said Jackaman of the Feb. 28 game. “They capitalized on their chances and our chances, we just couldn't put in the back of the net. Hopefully we get a better result on Monday night.”
Game time on Monday, March 4, is 7:30 p.m. Should the Leafs win, they will force game six, which is tentatively scheduled for March 7 at 8 p.m. at the Hants Exhibition Arena.