DEER LAKE — The Western Royals had to fight off a late surge from a pesky group, but goaltender Bryan Gillis made some clutch saves and the defence corps kept it together long enough for a huge victory.
The Royals hung for a 3-2 win over the Gander Flyers in Newfoundland Senior Hockey League play Sunday at the Hodder Memorial Recreation Complex.
Ryan Penney, Mark Robinson and Michael Hynes scored for the Royals, who held a comfortable 3-0 lead heading into the final stanza.
Tyler Whitehead and Jordan Scott scored third-period goals to keep the Flyers in the hunt for two points, but a barrage of shots at the final buzzer stayed out of Gillis’ cage as the Royals moved six points ahead of both the Flyers and the Eastlink CeeBee Stars, who lost both games of a two-game homestand to the league-leading Grand Falls-Windsor Cataracts in Harbour Grace.
The Royals moved into a second-place tie with the idle Clarenville Caribous, but that could change this weekend when the Royals travel to the Clarenville Events Centre for a two-game showdown.
Ryan Sparling had his best game of the year with a big assist on Robinson’s wrist shot that beat Flyers puckstopper Paddy O’Brien with just 53 seconds left in the opening stanza.
Sparling took a big hit from a Flyers rearguard as he cut into the middle of the ice as he crossed the blue-line, but managed to direct the puck to Robinson who made no mistake with his hard snapshot under the crossbar.
Sparling looked sharp playing the pivot on a new line combination that featured Ryan Penney and newcomer Chad Earle. The chemistry appeared to be instant as the trio were denied a lot of scoring chances, Sparling himself stopped by O’Brien at close range on a number of occasions including a late breakaway in the third.
Gillis made a brilliant glove save on Chad Locke in the later stages that fans showed their appreciation for, but it was a fairly quiet building as both teams had trouble getting anything going offensively for an extended period of team as both teams opted to play a smothering defence.
Criticized by fans for a poor effort in their own end most of the year, the scrappy defence corps kept things simple by chipping pucks out of harm’s way and Gillis had a pretty easy afternoon until the third period when the young Flyers seemed to have a little more gas in the tank than their older opponent.
Steve North was solid in his return to the Royals lineup logging a lot of minutes on the back-end. His presence was certainly a factor in the sweep as the Royals found out a few days ago that import defenceman Brad Woods wasn’t available for weekend action because of work commitments in Ontario.
It appears the big defender won’t be able to finish the season so coach Kearsey is expecting to have a new defenceman added to the mix for the road trip to Clarenville.
The following is a look at how things unfolded in Saturday’s contest between the Royals and Flyers:
Royals 6, Flyers 3
Darren Langdon moved up a couple of notches in the scoring race with two power-play goals as the Royals erased a 3-2 deficit in the third with four unanswered goals in the last eight minutes of the game.
Langdon’s linemate, scoring leader Brett Morrison, scored the eventual game-winning goal at 12:05 of the final stanza, while the other member of the league’s most productive trio Justin Barbour picked up an assist on both of Langdon’s power-play markers.
Mark Robinson had a goal and two assists playing on a new line combination that featured speedsters Scott Doody and Cory Blackmore.
Doody scored the third goal of the game on a snapshot from his off wing at 11:41 of the third to even the contest. Blackmore picked up an assist on Robinson’s first goal of the game at 6:53 of the middle stanza.
Tyler Whitehead had a two-goal performance for the Flyers with one of his markers coming with the man-advantage, while Spencer Corcoran — a workhorse for the Gander defence corps — had a power-play goal and two assists in the loss.
Ryan Gillis outduelled Pat O’Brien in the crease for the puckstopping win.
The following is a look at how things unfolded in the two-game series between the Cataracts and CeeBee Stars at the S. W. Moores Memorial Stadium in Harbour Grace:
Cataracts 5, CeeBee Stars 3 (Friday night)
Matt Quinn had a goal and assist to lead the charge for the league-leading Cataracts in a rare Friday night senior hockey league contest.
Luke Gallant, Andre Gill, Michael Brent and Martin Lapointe (empty-netter) also scored for the Cats.
Ryan Delaney, Robert Slaney and Jordan Escott scored for the Harbour Grace squad.
Cataracts 5, CeeBee Stars 3 (Saturday night)
Goalscorers for Saturday’s contest weren’t available at press time.