The Rapids started the new year with a couple of games on the road and with a revamped lineup. They took advantage of the trade deadline to bolster their offense that has scored only 5 goals in its last six contests. Coming to Grand Falls are forwards Graham Gamache, Josh Russell, Ethan Johnson and Tomasz Szczerba, all acquired last week. Leaving the team however is Thomas Degagné who was sent to the Montreal Phoenix of the Quebec Junior AAA League.
Also acquired by the Rapids is defenseman Will Morrison, who played in 28 games this season for the Amherst Ramblers.
Those players should be in uniform for the upcoming games, even though Russell did suit up against Summerside and Campbellton this past week.
The confidence level might have taken its toll with a 6-game losing streak, but the team is still playing at .500 and has 4 games more to play on the schedule than the Miramichi Timberwolves who are currently 4th in the Eastlink North standings with a 6-point lead over the Rapids.
We have seen this team bounce back from adversity before, so counting them out of a playoff spot would not be fair. There is still a long way to go before the end of the regular schedule. When they get back on track offensively and put an end to a 4-game power play scoring drought, there are no limits to what they can achieve. Greg Leland’s squad remains a tough opponent and a well-coached team that will compete at the highest level. Time will tell if the new acquisitions benefit the team and allow the offense to make its presence felt on the scoreboard. It only takes one or two wins to get things going, as it was the case when the Rapids had a very successful stretch of victories during the first half of the season.
Even though Thursday night’s contest in Summerside is a game they would like to forget, there were some key lessons learned from that 6-0 defeat. Contrary to what they did so well before the holiday break, the Rapids allowed 5 power play goals to their opponents, which is not what we were accustomed to this season. As Summerside leads the league in PP goals, it is most certainly not the way to be at the same level with such a good offensive team as the Capitals.
Then the following night in Campbellton, the Rapids were able to keep the game scoreless until very late in the second period, but they were unable to take the lead or tie the score. Mathis Huot was the only player to find the back of the net, cutting the Tigers’ lead to 2-1 in the final frame.
The Rapids have another tough divisional matchup coming on Thursday night as they clash with the Edmundston Blizzard at the Jean-Daigle Centre (7:30 pm). They return home on Friday night to host the Valley Wildcats, a team that has won its last 5 games on the schedule. Puck drop is at 7:30 pm at the E.&P. Sénéchal Centre.
Finally, the Rapids will return to Summerside for a Saturday matchup with the Western Capitals.
Playing three games on three consecutive nights is a tough task, but it will also be a great opportunity to get things going in the right direction and give the new players a chance to learn more about the system and their new teammates.
*The Rapids’ record now stands at 14 wins and 14 losses for 28 points. They are 6-points back of Miramichi for 4th spot in the Eastlink North division standings. Grand Falls has a record of 8 wins and 7 losses on the road this season. They have 6 wins and 7 losses on home ice.
There is currently a three-way tie atop the Eastlink North standings with Summerside, Campbellton and Edmundston all with 39 points.
*In the Eastlink South, the Yarmouth Mariners have won their last six games and 9 of their last 10 contests as they lead the division by 9 points over the Truro Bearcats. Teams that follow in order in the standings: Valley, Pictou County, Amherst and South Shore.
*The latest power play scoring drought has seen the Rapids fall to 4th in their division in power play efficiency (27.7%) and 5th in PP goals scored with 28. They have also fallen to 5th spot of their division in penalty kill efficiency (72.5%).
*Yannic Bastarache leads the team in scoring with 15 goals and 24 assists for 39 points. He is followed by Ben Diamond (14g;14a; 28pts), Dominic LeBlanc (13g; 14a; 27pts) and Evan Bellamy (4g; 18a; 22pts).
*Next games on the schedule:
Thursday January 12: Rapids at Edmundston (7:30 pm)
Friday January 13: Valley at Rapids (7:30 pm)
Saturday January 14: Rapids at Summerside (7:00 pm)