As we take a look back at 2018, the local story in Yarmouth that stands out as our Sports Story of the Year is the Yarmouth Jr. A Mariners’ league playoff run that took them all the way to Game 6 of the MHL final after finishing the regular season in first place in their division and then capturing their division title. Here's a look back.
YARMOUTH, N.S. – On the road to victory, one team always has to take a detour to Heartbreak City.
Such was the case for the Yarmouth Mariners, whose spectacular 2017-2018 season came to an end in Game 6 of the MHL final in April.
But what a run.
While it was a disappointing end for the Yarmouth Mariners who finished their season just two wins away from capturing the league championship and going to the Fred Page Cup in Ottawa, the night still capped off what was an amazing season for the team.
“I was so proud to have the chance to coach them. They are a great bunch of kids,” said head coach Laurie Barron, following that Game 6.
Admittedly in the moment, the loss stung.
“We won our division, which was an accomplishment, but to get this group to go to Ontario would have been super,” said Barron.
“After the sting goes away we’ll look back and say it was a hell of a year. We’re back on the map now. . . We’re going to get another chance to win that last game of the season.”
A TIGHT SERIES FINAL
The league championship had been a tight series between the Yarmouth Mariners and the Edmundston Blizzard. In the first four games of the series the Blizzard had two double overtime wins, the Mariners had an overtime victory and won another game by the tiny margin of 1-0.
In those four games, neither team ever held more than a one-goal lead throughout the game or at the final buzzer.
After a 6-2 loss in Game 5 that put the Blizzard ahead 3-2 in the series, the Mariners were looking for one last win on home ice on April 24 to push the series to an all-deciding Game 7.
But when the game ended the 5-2 victory went to the Blizzard – their final goal an empty netter with just three seconds left on the clock.
The Blizzard had arrived in Yarmouth earlier that day by plane, choosing to forego the grueling 1,000 kilometre-trip (and that is just one way) between Yarmouth and Edmundston, making for a long bus ride of close to 11 hours (again, just one way). Still, it was a distance the Mariners would have gladly driven one more time for a Game 7.
For the Blizzard, the league championship marked the franchise’s first playoff title since 2015 when the team was located in Dieppe and went by the name Commandos.
The two teams shook hands at the conclusion of the game, with several embraces between players. Fans in the Mariners Centre gave the Mariners a resounding, and much-deserved, salute for their season, with the Blizzard team joining in on the applause.
A SPECTACULAR SEASON
The Mariners finished the regular 2017-2018 season in first place in their division with 71 points – 35 wins, 14 losses and one overtime loss – which put them in second place overall in the league behind Edmundston who had 76 points.
During the playoffs, the Mariners defeated the Truro Bearcats in seven games in the semi-final playoff series and won the Eastlink South Division in five games over the South Shore Lumberjack, marking the Mariners’ first trip back to the MHL final since 2012.
“This is my fourth year in junior so I’ve been waiting my whole junior career for this,” said Mariners player Duncan McKie after the team won the Eastlink South Division title. “It’s a great feeling to finally be able to have the opportunity to win a championship, especially here in Yarmouth. It’s such a great town with such great fans. Everyone is just so supportive of us. It’s just awesome.”
“It’s a great feeling," added teammate Ben Chipman. "It’s a long time coming for Yarmouth and it’s really special to share this feeling with all of my teammates and the great fans of Yarmouth here.”
WHEN IT WAS OVER
While their season ended a few games earlier than the players would have liked, everyone agreed it was a phenomenal run.
“It was a great group of guys,” said player Noah McMullin at the conclusion of the playoff run. “It’s friendships we’ll have forever.”
McMullin, who in this current Mariners Jr. A season shares the ‘C’ with teammate Chris Goreham, said after that Game 6 in April that playing in Yarmouth is always amazing.
“It’s a great atmosphere, it just doesn’t get much better than this.”
The Mariners saw nine players graduate from junior A hockey at the conclusion of the 2017-2018 season: Adam Pilotte, Duncan McKie, Kyle Bergh, Ben Chipman, Patrick Daley, Leif Hertz, Aaron Maillet, Matthew Smith and Luc Poirier.
Poirier, while disappointed the team didn't capture the MHL league title, agreed there was much to be proud of.
“It was a great season. I’m proud of every single one of the guys that were in that dressing room with me,” he said.
It is always the goal of any team to make it all the way to the end and at training camp in September 2017 the Mariners had adopted the mantra – Let’s Play in May, in reference to the Fred Page Cup that was happening May 2-6, 2018.
Although the team came up short of that goal, Luc Poirier had nothing but praise for the team, saying, “I’d rather lose with the group of guys in our dressing room, than win with anyone else.”
TRAGEDY FELT ACROSS THE COUNTRY:
In the midst of playoffs a tragedy occurred in Saskatchewan when a bus carrying the Humboldt Broncos collided with a semi-truck, killing 16 people on board. Read Tina Comeau's reflection of the tragic event and why it hit close to home for Canadians:
REPLAY: REVISIT THE PLAYOFFS WITH A LOCAL BACK AT SOME OF OUR COVERAGE: