It was a tough weekend for fans of the Grand Falls-Windsor Cataracts, as the team slipped another four points behind the first place slot after losing both games of their weekend home series against the Clarenville Caribous.
The Cats still stand in second place in the Newfoundland Senior Hockey League with 20 points, and with their four points gained from the weekend, the Caribous are now seven points ahead in first.
The Corner Brook Royals are still in third, but now with 16 points after picking up two wins over the weekend against the Mount Pearl Blades.
“We had an opportunity to really put some pressure on them for first place,” said Casey. “But they were two good one-goal games. We don’t need to go into panic mode or anything; I like the way the team is playing in regards to pressure. I think Clarenville has a very good hockey team, we certainly respect that, and I think what we have to do is take away the good, and learn from some of the stuff we should have done better. If we build off that, we’ll be fine.”
On Saturday night’s game against the Caribous, which took place at the Joe Byrne Memorial Stadium, the visitors wasted little time taking the lead; they scored two goals in the first three minutes of the first period. The Cats managed to tie it up by the end of the first with a goal at seven minutes by Brandon Nicholas, and one at 16 minutes by Wes Welcher – both during power plays. While the second period started on a level playing field, it was shifted back in Clarenville’s favour quickly, when they scored not even three minutes into the second. Again, the home team managed to tie it up before the end of the period, with a goal by Matt Quinn ten minutes in.
Just like in the second period, it wasn’t long before the Caribous took the lead again, a little more than three minutes into the third period. This time the Cats weren’t able to tie it up. The game finished up with a score of 4-3 for the Caribous.
It was a similar story at the start of Sunday afternoon’s game, as the Caribous took the lead within minutes of the start of the first period. They scored one goal at a minute and 20 seconds, and another at a minute and 33 seconds. The two-goal lead lasted nearly the duration of the first, but Quinn put one in for the Cats with a minute left to the first period.
The second period was a battle between the teams to either tie it up, or widen the gap, but neither team succeeded. At the end of the second, the score was still 2-1 in favour of the Caribous.
The Cataracts finally managed to tie the game eight and half minutes into the third with a goal by Andre Gill, but were overtaken by the Caribous at 13 minutes. The game ended with another win for Clarenville, with a score of 3-2.
“I think Saturday (Clarenville) trapped us pretty good in the third period, we didn’t respond to that effectively, which we should have,” said Casey. “We did a much better job on Sunday than Saturday…we were able to put a little more pressure on their defense.”
With the Caribous as their biggest threat right now, Casey said even though they didn’t come out of the weekend with any points, they’ll learn from their mistakes for when the teams meet again.
“There’s always room for improvement. We’ve seen Clarenville six times now, we’re going to build off the positive we’ve taken from the weekend and keep going from there. We’re going to be in tough games, that’s the reality of it, it’s all about how we respond (this) weekend.”
The Cats and the Caribous won’t face off again until the second last weekend of the season. This weekend, the Cataracts will be taking on the Mount Pearl Blades and the Conception Bay CeeBees on the road, and will be back at home the week after to face the Corner Brook Royals.
With Cody Roach still out from last weeks head injury, and Mike Sibly still off with a broken arm, another player will be added to the Cataracts this weekend. David Philpott, who played with the Cats last season, will be re-joining the team.
With only eight games left to the regular season, Cataracts coach Brian Casey knows how important these games were for the team, but he said he’s not overly concerned about this weekend’s losses, and said the main focus will be looking at the games ahead.
“I think overall they were two great games, I think fans can appreciate that high level of hockey. We’re in a league where all five teams are very good teams, I think we’re going to see a lot of one-goal games because that’s just the reality of how competitive our league is,” said Casey. “There’s ups and downs and that’s just the way it is. The work ethic has to be there for the full sixty minutes if you want to get the points.”