Narrowly hang on to first place
© Rod Bennett photo/Special to the Advertiser
Rob Hennigar of the Grand Falls-Windsor Cataracts jumps out of harm’s way as teammate Luke Gallant fires a shot towards Western Royals goalie Bryan Gillis on Sunday, Jan. 12, in provincial senior hockey league play at Joe Byrne Memorial Stadium. Royals import defenceman Zack Firlotte is shown defending the Royals net.
By ROD BENNETT and KRYSTA CARROLL
The Grand Falls-Windsor Senior Cataracts are finding themselves in a situation they’re not used to — on the losing end of a pair of hockey games.
“Dropping two games in a row is something that we’re not too familiar with but I think it’s a little bit of a wake-up call to our group,” said Coach Shane Lukinchuk after dropping two games to the Western Royals this past weekend.
The Western Royals swept a home-and-home series with the Grand Falls-Windsor Cataracts over the weekend – the first team this year to do so.
“A little bit of adversity is certainly a good thing at this time of year and the big thing that our guys have to realize and that we have to understand is the second half of the regular season is completely different from the first half,” Lukinchuk said. “Games are a lot more meaningful, not to take away anything that we did in the first half but we have to know week in and week out that it’s going to be a grind, it’s going to be a challenge and every game from here on out is going to be a meaningful game.”
After being defeated 5-3 by the Western Royals on the west coast on Saturday evening, the Grand Falls-Windsor Senior Cataracts were blanked 3-0 by the Royals at Joe Byrne Memorial Stadium Sunday afternoon.
There were two goals scored in the first period by Matthew Berube and Justin Barbour with assist by Scott Doody, Stephen Simms, Parker Deigham and Michael Hynes.
The second period only had one goal by Matthew Thomey and the assist by Mark Robinson. The Cats came out strong in the first half of the period by out shooting the Royals 7-0 and then the Royals took over the period.
The second and third periods were pretty even with strong netminding by the Royals goalie Bryan Gillis who earned a shutout.
In the best-of-the-west battle Saturday night at the Hodder Memorial Stadium Gillis outdueled A. J. Whiffen in the crease.
Kyle McGuirk, Andre Gill and Cam Fergus scored for the Cataracts.
The Royals’ Justin Barbour had a two-goal game. Michael Hynes had an empty net goal, while Mathieu Berube and Mark Robinson rounded out the scoring parade. Scott Doody picked up two assists in the victory in front of the hometown fans.
The Cats had almost a month layoff with Christmas break and weather and power outages in the Clarenville area cancelling their games two weekends ago, Lukinchuk said. This time off, not being around each other or practicing for a month, was evident in Saturday night’s game in Deer Lake, the coach added.
“The timing is off, the conditioning isn’t there,” Lukinchuk said. “That’s certainly no excuse for coming home and not getting the job done on Sunday because we should have been ready. As a coach I’ll wear that a little bit.”
The Cats remain league-leaders of the six-team two-division provincial senior hockey league with 24 points (12 wins, four losses), but just one point ahead of the Clarenville Caribous.
The Royals wins earn them sole possession of third place with 20 points after the Mount Pearl H J Bartlett Electric Blades dropped two games to the Clarenville Caribous.
Mount Pearl now sits in fourth with 16 points, followed by the Eastlink CeeBee Stars with 13, and the Gander Flyers with 11.
After losing two games against the Royals this past weekend, the Cataracts are looking to bounce back next weekend against the Mount Pearl Blades.
The Cats next action at home will be Jan. 26 and Jan. 27 against the CeeBee Stars at the Joe Byrne Memorial Stadium.
“Hopefully we learn from our mistakes,” Lukinchuk said. “There has to be some form of an urgency to our games now. Teams aren’t just going to come in knowing that they are playing the Grand Falls-Windsor Cataracts and roll over. When you’re a first-place hockey team, your opponents get jacked up to play you and they are going to bring forth a solid effort and if we think we’re going to get the job done by only competing for 20 to 40 minutes or one or two periods, it’s not going to work. We have to dial it in now and we have to be engaged and we have to be ready every weekend to compete for 60 minutes in order to have any kind of success.”
With files from the Western Star