Senior semifinals set to go: Cataracts

Kenn Oliver
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The Grand Falls-Windsor Cataracts' Steve Pearson (rear) follows the Corner Brook Royals' Brad Rice during a regular season meeting at the Pepsi Centre in Corner Brook. - Western Star file photo

Whether it carried over from the former West Coast senior circuit or from their often heated meetings in the inaugural season the Newfoundland Senior Hockey League this year, a healthy rivalry exists between the Corner Brook Royals and the Grand Falls-Windsor Cataracts.

"There's a respect level," says Royals coach Ben Fitzgerald, "but there's certainly a big desire to beat one another."

With a berth in the Telegram Herder Memorial Trophy Championship Series on the line, that desire to beat one another will be amplified when the teams kick off their best-of-seven semifinal series 9 p.m. Saturday in Game 1 at the Joe Byrne Memorial Stadium in Grand Falls-Windsor. Game 2 follows Sunday evening at 7 p.m.

Cataracts coach Brian Casey, however, hopes the only beatings are on the scoresheet.

"I try to make sure our guys are really focused on what we do good as a team and what got us here and not get caught up in anything beyond that."

With Fitzgerald ready to deploy the same strategy against the Cats as they did throughout the regular season, Casey's charges could find it hard to not let the rivalry seep in.

"We know they're a speedy team, so in order to take that away we have to take away time and space and more often than not we have to do that through physical play," says Fitzgerald.

That physical play will be directed primarily at the Cataracts' defense corps, namely import blueliners Martin Lapointe and Nick Theriault.

The duo finished second and fourth in team scoring, but led the team in assists with 23 and 25 respectively.

"Their back-end is what makes their forwards so good, so if we can nullify their defence by being physical on them, taking them out of the play and not making it easy for that first pass then their forwards become less of a factor."

That's important when facing the defending Herder champs as Fitzgerald says, "every line that comes at you is capable of scoring."

Casey knows his team is in for a series full of "battles along the boards" and "down-low" play, and if the Cataracts hope to move on they'll have to play smart, low-risk hockey.

Against a big, hard-hitting team like the Royals he knows that won't be easy.

"They've got some big bodies who can protecrt the puck well, so we've got to make sure we're containing them."

More importantly, Casey says they cannot allow an opportunistic Royals team any odd-man rushes.

"If they get a break or a two-on-one, in the games we've played against them they've capitalized on those chances. We can't beat ourselves, we need to make sure we're always even coming back down the ice."

Both coaches agree the series will come down to playing disciplined hockey and minimizing mistakes.

Working in the Cataracts favour though, according to Fitzgerald, are the game times for the opening weekend.

When teams visited Joe Byrne throughout the regular season, Saturday night contests generally started at 8 p.m. with Sunday's rematch usually going no later than 2 p.m., thereby allowing visiting teams to check out of their hotel prior to the second game. With the provincial figure skating championships in Grand Falls-Windsor this weekend, Game 2's start time was pushed to 7 o'clock Sunday evening. As such, Fitzgerald says the Royals will have to bus to Corner Brook after Saturday night's game and may not arrive until 4 a.m. only to turn around and drive back again in time for Sunday's contest.

"In my opinion, if a team couldn't host the proper hours, then they should have hosted Games 3 and 4.

"We won't make any excuses, but the comforts of being at home versus sitting around for 12 hours watiting for your next game is hopefully not a factor."

The Royals will get some help in Game 1 at least, as Cataracts' import forwards Tyler Whitehead and Matt Quinn won't be available due to work commitments.

Brad Dyke will get the start for the Royals while the Cataracts turn to Mark Yetman who bested the Royals in all but one meeting this season.

Boxe(s):

CATARACTS-ROYALS

Series schedule

Game 1: Today, Corner Brook at Grand Falls-Windsor

Game 2: Sunday, Corner Brook at Grand Falls-Windsor

Game 3: Mar. 10, Grand Falls-Windsor at Corner Brook

Game 4: Mar. 11, Grand Falls-Windsor at Corner Brook

*Game 5: Mar. 16, Corner Brook at Grand Falls-Windsor

*Game 6: Mar. 17, Grand Falls-Windsor at Corner Brook

*Game 7: Mar. 18, Corner Brook at Grand Falls-Windsor

* - if necessary

koliver@thetelegram.com Twitter@telykenn

Organizations: Newfoundland Senior Hockey League, Trophy Championship Series

Geographic location: Corner Brook, West Coast

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Recent comments

  • Dan
    March 10, 2012 - 21:31

    Where's Waldo?

  • Dan
    March 04, 2012 - 10:58

    Waldo......cats in 6. Our 11 herders to your 7 will prove large. In two weeks, it won't be, where's Waldo, it will also be where's the royals?

  • Waldo
    March 04, 2012 - 09:42

    Game 1 >>>>5-2 Royals. As long as Casey keeps on outcoaching Fitz, should be a short series hey DAN!!

  • Dan
    March 03, 2012 - 10:54

    Casey will simply outcoach Fitzgerald. Fitz has started the excuses already while Casey continues to quietly do his job and let Fitzgerald make a fool of himself.