You could tell Clarenville Caribous’ captain Dustin Russell has been itching to return to action. Russell had been sporting a cast on his left hand after having surgery last month to repair a broken knuckle suffered in Game 2 of the semifinals against the Western Royals.
But Russell, whose Caribous face the Conception Bay North Eastlink CeeBee Stars in Game 3 of the Telegram Herder Memorial Championship Series 8 p.m. today in Harbour Grace, tore the cast off earlier this week.
But that doesn’t mean Russell is guaranteed to be on the ice at S.W. Moores Memorial Stadium.
“I’m not trying to be aloof. I just can’t give you a definite answer on that,” Russell says.
“It’s going to come down to the pain tolerance and the strength in my wrist and forearm. It’s hard to squeeze the hand right now, but I’ve been doing some physiotherapy for the last couple of days and it’s progressing a small amount each day.”
Until the injury, Russell had been enjoying an impressive ironman streak for consecutive games played. In seven seasons with the defending Herder champions ‘Bous, Russell appeared in every game — exhibition, regular season, playoffs, Herder finals and Allan Cup. His last injury, he figures, was during in his university career with the St. Francis Xavier X-Men.
“It’s been a good run, it’s over now, unfortunately. I’ll start a new one now,” says Russell, MVP of last year’s Herder final against the Grand Falls-Windsor Cataracts.
With his captain unable to offer his leadership on the ice, Clarenville coach Ivan Hapgood brought Russell onto the bench to assist. Watching his teammates outscore the Royals 11-2 over three games to close out the semifinals eased the sting of not being able to play, but witnessing his teammates fall behind the CeeBees 2-0 in the best-of-seven provincial final was tough in the highly competitive Russell.
“Watching that and not being able to help the guys was very frustrating, and I felt their frustration on the bench.”
While last Saturday’s series-opener, a come-from-behind 4-3 CeeBees win, could have gone either way, Russell says the Caribous didn’t play their game in a 5-1 loss Sunday. Against a CeeBees team on emotional playoff high following an underachieving regular season, he says they’ll need a better effort.
“They (the CeeBees) basically exceeded all expectations and are playing like a team that has nothing to lose,” he says. “When that’s the case, it makes for a bunch that’s difficult to beat.”
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Russell says fans will see a better effort tonight from a hungrier and “pissed off” Clarenville side.
“You can never guarantee the results, but I guarantee it’ll be more of a Caribous effort (tonight).”
Meanwhile, the CeeBees will be without forward Chris Hulit this weekend. The import forward is the director of corporate partnerships for the Ontario Hockey League’s Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, and this is typically a busy time of year in the team’s business operations department.
Colin Escott will dress in Hulit’s place.
Assistant coach Peter George also says Terry Ryan and Jamie Tobin, both injured in the semifinals against the Cataracts, will be game-time decisions. Ryan has been sidelined with broken ribs and a punctured lung, while Tobin is recovering from surgery to repair a broken metacarpal bone in his left hand.
Game 4 goes Saturday night at 7:30, with a Game 5, if necessary, to follow Sunday afternoon at 2 o’clock.