Churchill struggles to maintain his balance

Kenn Oliver
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It hasn’t been easy being a full-time worker in one province and a part-time hockey player in another

Clarenville Caribous’ goalie Jason Churchill, shown making a save in this file photo, had a 10-5-1 record and 3.69 goals-against average during the 2011-12 Newfoundland Senior Hockey League regular season. The Caribous and Grand Falls-Windsor Cataracts play the first two games of the best-of-seven Telegram Herder Memorial Trophy Championship Series — the provincial senior hockey final — at Mile One Centre in St. John’s Saturday night and Sunday afternoon. — Photo by Kathy Gosse/Transcontinental Media/The Packet

There was a time when Jason Churchill often didn’t bother taking his goaltending gear with him when he returned to his Halifax home after playing a couple of weekend senior hockey games with the Clarenville Caribou.

But not this season.

The Hodge’s Cove native came to the realization that policy wasn’t going to work if the ’Bous hoped to have any success in the new Newfoundland Senior Hockey League.

“In past years, (there were instances) where I didn’t skate for a couple of weeks in a row and it wasn’t that big of a deal,” says Churchill, who will turn 27 later this year.

“Now that I’m getting older and where the league has gotten better, I can’t do that anymore. You’ve got to get on the ice and at least get the bugs worked out a little bit.”

Churchill says he didn’t really start feeling really comfortable until the second half of the season after he found a lunch-hour pickup game in Halifax, where he works for Cougar Helicopters as an aircraft maintenance engineer.

In the NSHL, Churchill had a 10-5-1 record, posted a 3.69 goals-against average and had an .898 save percentage, second only to that Mark Yetman of the Grand Falls-Windsor Cataracts.

Yetman will get the start at the other end of the ice as the Caribous and Cataracts square off in the first two games of the best-of-seven Telegram Herder Memorial Trophy Championship Series at Mile One Saturday night (7:30 p.m.) and Sunday afternoon (2 p.m.)

Despite his solid numbers, Churchill — the Allan Cup MVP last spring as the Caribous won the Canadian senior hockey championship — isn’t happy with his overall performance this season.

“My work schedule the previous two years with Cougar was a lot easier than what it has been this year,” he says.

“That played a big part in not skating up here (in Halifax), which played a part in not performing as well in Newfoundland.

“The numbers don’t lie. I never felt as good this year as I did in previous ones. It’s getting tougher. This season didn’t turn out the way I wanted it to.”

As well, the back-and-forth between St. John’s and Halifax every weekend is taxing, and as he becomes more of an integral part of Cougar’s work force, it’s “getting a lot harder.”

“Travelling every single weekend and trying to manage my schedule up here and having people cover for me when I’m gone is tough, and it’s tough on my co-workers, too,” he says.

“There’s only so much I can do that.”

Churchill has applied for a transfer to St. John’s, but with the company still dealing with the fallout from the crash of Flight 219 two years ago, his request is “on the backburner.”

Also keeping him in Halifax for at least the next couple of years, he says, is the fact he’s become a homeowner, having bought a codo.

“I really couldn’t wait any longer, I wanted to get into a property so I went ahead and purchased,” Churchill said.

“ When the transfer happens, I’ll worry about it then.”

For now, he’s only worried about the challenge of beating defending Herder champion Grand Falls-Windsor.

“They have a deep lineup with some explosive offense,” says Churchill of the Cataracts.

“It’s going to be a great Herder, probably one of the best in a long time.”

koliver@thetelegram.com

Twitter@telykenn

Geographic location: Halifax, Newfoundland, Grand Falls

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  • Herder Heresay
    March 23, 2012 - 18:00

    St. Johns has won 19 herders. St bons is St johns just much as the andcos are the cats

  • Kenneth
    March 23, 2012 - 14:36

    I kind of agree with Dan on this one. I complained to the executive here in Clarenville and they were like.....too bad, go to St. John's if you want to see us. I won't forget this next year folks.

  • Dan
    March 23, 2012 - 14:12

    Hey "The Fat Lady".....Cats won 11 Herders, check it out. Being told to play at Mile One is one thing but to gutlessly do so against the wishes of their fans is terrible. By the way, Mark Yetmas is clearly the best goalie in the league, not Churchill. Ask anyone who knows hockey......not many of those Clarenville though!

  • nikki
    March 23, 2012 - 12:49

    Church your the best goalie in the league . I Can't wait to see you win your 3rd herder title. GO Bous Go !

  • The Fat Lady
    March 23, 2012 - 12:14

    Wow Dan, those are some heavy darts from a guy who needs some herder history lessons. The cats don't have the most herder wins. The caribous were told to play their game at mile one. They said okay, the fans didn't whine, the mayor didn't whine, they lived with it. To call them gutless sounds like sour grapes. Perhaps those grapes could be turned in to "whine". Call Rodriguez Winery,the fat lady has sang.

  • Dan
    March 23, 2012 - 10:48

    Hey Mark....sounds like your conceding already. Don''t worry Mark, the Mickey Mouse Clarenville organization are going to lose to the Cats, home of the most Herder wins of all time. Clarenville is a gutless organization......they cried for a new rink for years, they got one and sheepishly agree to play their finals in St. John's. I thought they cared more about their fans than that.

  • Mark West
    March 23, 2012 - 07:12

    Good luck Jason, but if you win be prepared for the fallout of whining from the central area. Home of the whinocerous.