The St. John’s Green Sleeves/Bud Light Capitals got a pair of goals from Kenny Mahoney on their way to a 5-3 victory over Northeast RONA Eagles in the opening game of the Molson Canadian Avalon East Senior Hockey League final Tuesday night at Jack Byrne Arena in Torbay.
Game 2 in the best-of-five series is set for Tuesday in Torbay.
Nick Bray, Shane Sullivan and Greg Kinsella also scored for the Caps. Mahoney, who had six goals in five games against the Eagles during the regular season, also added an assist.
Danny Connolly scored twice for the Eagles. Mike Gambin had the other goal for Northeast.
“I expected it to be a close game and it was. said Caps’ coach Wally Bray.
“It could have gone either way,”
The game could indeed have been a lot closer at the end, but Connolly took a four-minute spearing penalty with 5:54 left and Kinsella proceeded to notch his team’s fifth goal on the power play.
Connolly then took a cross-checking penalty with just over two minutes remaining and the Caps were able to play out the string without being under much pressure.
While late penalties hampered an Eagles comeback, Bray says his team’s weakness also revolved around trips to the sin bin.
“They managed to goad us into a couple of retaliation penalties and I’m not satisfied with that,” Bray said.
“It’s something I’ll talk to the players about.”
Eagles coach Todd Gillingham felt his team “started pretty strong,” but the penalties took a toll.
“We’ve said all along that to beat the Capitals you have to be disciplined. We got a way from that and it cost us the game,” Gillingham, who felt there were some “questionable” calls in the contest.
“It was a tough situation for a young referee to be in.”
The game started slowly, but the pace picked up considerably midway through the first period when the teams exchanged goals just a few minutes apart.
Gambin’s unassisted, shorthanded tally on a breakaway gave the Eagles a 2-1 lead at 11:49 of the opening frame, but Mahoney’s unassisted marker tied the game at 2-2 before the end of the period.
Mahoney gave the Caps a 3-2 lead at 4:53 of the second period on a slapshot that beat Eagles goalie Chris Walsh low to the far corner of the net. Sullivan, left unchecked just outside the goal crease, gave St. John’s a 4-2 advantage on a rebound.
Connolly got the Eagles back in the game on a power play early in the third frame, but they never really threatened again.
Walsh finished with 32 saves, while the Caps’ Kyle Downer had 30 stops.
Bray said he feels his team’s line balance is key to its success.
“I’m not afraid to throw out any line. We’re pretty deep with three scoring lines and a real good checking line and good penalty killing in Doug Crocker and Brian Evans,” he said.
Bray said his team also favours a quick pace to the game.
“We’re a bit younger, so the faster pace is better for us.”
Bray agreed it will be a long time between the first two games of the series, but says the Caps will go over various systems in practice and he’ll try “to keep the boys loose.”