Caribous take 3-1 series lead
© Chris G. Ballard photo
Jason Churchill keeps a close eye on the play during his 30-save shutout on Saturday night.
Jason Churchill stopped all 30 shots he faced as the Clarenville Caribous blanked the Western Royals 3-0 in NLSHL semi-final action from the Clarenville Events Centre on Saturday night.
With the victory, the Caribous take a 3-1 series lead and are one win away from clinching their fourth trip to the Herder in five years.
Andrew Sweetland opened the scoring with a power-play goal just over 12 minutes into the game. Positioned at the top of the right circle, Sweetland received a perfect pass from Brandon Roach and fired a slap shot past Royals' goaltender Bryan Gillis.
The second period was the Jason Churchill show. The Royals applied tremendous pressure in the second frame but Churchill was up to the challenge, stopping several screened shots and two-on-ones to keep the game close.
Dale Sullivan would push the Caribous lead to 2-0 with just under three minutes left in the second period, to set up a key third period.
The Caribous once again took control in the third period. Sweetland's second power-play goal of the game with 8:32 left sealed the deal for Clarenville.
Churchill's shutout is only the second recorded in the NLSHL this season. Grand Falls - Windsor's AJ Whiffen recorded a 5-0 shutout against the Gander Flyers on Oct. 27.
Caribous head coach Ivan Hapgood was pleased with the full-team effort his squad assembled in a crucial game four.
"i thought that right from the opening faceoff tonight that we probably played one of the most solid team games we've played all year," he said.
"Every player played and contributed and everyone was into the game. It was a great team win."
Hapgood has had nothing but high praise for Jason Churchill all season long and was more than content with his goaltender's performance.
"There's never been a series over the last five years where Jason hasn't been able to steal one himself," Hapgood said.
"He never stole this one but he gave us the chance to win. Nothing that he does surprises me anymore."
Clarenville now has the opportunity to finish out the series in front of their home fans on Sunday and the Caribous coaching staff knows they'll be in for a tough battle.
"Anytime you play three games in three day, it's never easy," Hapgood said.
"We'll be lacking some energy tomorrow but so will they."
"Our job for tomorrow will be the same as tonight," said Caribous assistant coach Todd Brett.
"Keep focused. Keep hydrated. Our guys have played pro, semi-pro and major junior. They know what's on the line. They want to win."
The Caribous will try to punch their ticket to the Herder final tomorrow, Sunday, at 3:30 pm at the Clarenville Events Centre.