That one hurt.
Leading 3-1 in the third period, the Fredericton Red Wings couldn’t maintain the momentum built from a positive second period and eventually lost 4-3 to the Pictou County Weeks Crushers in Maritime Hockey League action at the Grant*Harvey Centre.
The winning goal came on a Pictou County powerplay with 10.4 seconds left in regulation off the stick of Dallas Farrell.
The Red Wings could not clear the puck and the Crushers were relentless in pursuit to set up the winning goal from Farrell, who was Pictou County’s best player on this night. The winner, on a hard snapshot from the faceoff circle, was the 51st shot on Jack Grant in the Fredericton cage.
Jaden Mason, Logan Vande Meerakker and Evan Gallant also scored for Pictou County.
Gallant tied it at 11:45, setting the stage for Gallant’s late heroics.
The loss ruined a solid night for Grant and Noah Cauchi, who had two goals and an assist. Riley Burtt had the other goal for the Red Wings, who had 23 shots on Andrew MacLeod.
Fredericton trailed 1-0 entering the second period, but that certainly changed in the middle period when the Red Wings erupted for three unanswered tallies.
Cauchi started the puck rolling thanks to some offensive work from rookie defenceman Neil MacLean, who made a rush down the rightside and flipped the puck toward MacLeod’s crease. The puck hit a Pictou defender and glanced right to Cauchi, who hammered it into the empty net.
The Fredericton faithful really got into things when hometown rookie Burtt hit a personal milestone. After sweating out a minor penalty for goaltender interference, Burtt stayed on the ice and was rewarded.
He took a pass from Aiden MacIntosh in the slot and sniped home his first MHL goal, putting on a fantastic goalscoring celebration. MacIntosh showed leadership when he retrieved the puck from the referee as a keep-sake.
That goal came at 10:55 and less than two minutes later, the Red Wings lit the lamp again when Cauchi pumped his second of the night, sixth of the season.
He stripped the puck from a pair of Pictou players along the left wall, broke into the middle and tucked a nifty deke five-hole on MacLeod for a 3-1 lead.
Mason had scored late in the first to give the Crushers a 1-0 lead.
Fredericton has to find a way to regroup as it prepares for road work Friday, traveling to Edmundston to meet the Blizzard.
The Red Wings will play in Summerside on New Year’s Eve and return home Jan. 3.