Caribous secure first place in regular season with at home win Sunday
© Kathy Gosse photo
Cataracts player Chad Earle dives in attempt to get his stick on the puck. In pursuit is Caribous team captain Dustin Russell. The Caribous won the game to clinch first place in the regular season.
As the clock ticked down the final seconds of Sunday's game, Caribous fans at the Clarenville Events Centre began chanting, "We're number one. We're number one."
The Clarenville Caribous clinched first place in Newfoundland and Labrador Senior Hockey League play with a convincing 6-1 win over the Grand Falls-Windsor Cataracts this past Sunday.
Saturday night's game was a heartbreaker for Caribous fans. With a 3-0 lead going into the third period, the Cats came back, scoring an impressive six goals in the final period.
After dropping Saturday night's game to the visiting Grand Falls-
Windsor Cataracts 6-3, the Caribous were determined to come out with a win in their final regular season game.
"Saturday night's game was a huge win for us, it was great to see a comeback like that," said Cataracts coach Brian Casey. "Sunday, we didn't get the result we wanted. I give credit to the Caribous, they played the full 60 minutes and were rewarded with the victory. They outplayed us for most of the game."
With their win on the weekend, the Caribous are now in sole possession of first place with 36 points. The Cataracts presently sit a fair distance away in second place with 28 points, while the Corner Brook Royals have 23 points. Fighting it out for the final playoff spot will be the Conception Bay North CeeBee Stars and the Mount Pearl Blades who each have 19 points.
The Mount Pearl Blades will host the Cataracts in their final two games of regular season, while the Corner Brook Royals will host the Conception Bay North Stars in their final games of regular season play.
"The big thing for us is we need to play a playoff intensity game. We're playing against Mount Pearl this weekend, who is battling to get that final playoff spot," said Casey. "I think that's good for us, because they're going to be playing a very desperate game, and we want to play that kind of game now as well."
Although the Caribous may look like the biggest threat to the Cataracts, Casey said in a skilled league like this, it's anybody's game, and they need to focus on playing their hardest every time.
Caribous head coach Ivan Hapgood agrees with Casey. He said it doesn't make any difference who they meet in the playoffs.
"Any team is capable of winning on any given day. We played five and a half good periods of hockey on the weekend," says Hapgood. "In Saturday night's game we didn't play well in the final period and the Cataracts came back and took the win."
Both the Cataracts and the Caribous were short players this past weekend. The Caribous without the services of Brad Crann and Matthew Bragg on the weekend, the pair had work commitments. The Cataracts played without their lead defenseman, import Nick Theriault, also due to work commitments. Casey said player Mike Sibley, who has been out for quite some time, should be returning to the Cataracts lineup very soon.
Although the Cats and the Caribous won't meet again until the playoffs, Casey said the team has learned how best to play the number one team throughout the season.
"We can't play a skill game against Clarenville, because they're a very skilled team, and they don't need a lot of time to score. We have to play a ‘wear you down' kind of game against them, we have to be very physical," said Casey. " Losing 6-1 (this weekend), we obviously didn't do a lot of things right, but (we came) back and (won) 6-3...so we've got to learn to balance both moving forward."
The Cats will play their next home game during the first weekend of the playoffs for the Newfoundland and Labrador Senior Men's Hockey League on March 3 and 4.