Clarenville Caribous coach Ivan Hapgood says he’s been around long enough to know when you add a bunch of new players to a roster for a season-ending tournament, you never know what you’re going to get.
The Caribous, who recently lost The Telegram Herder Memorial Trophy Championship Series to the Conception Bay North Eastlink CeeBee Stars, are once again the province’s representatives at the Allan Cup, the Canadian men’s senior AAA hockey championships, next month in Red Deer, Alta.
The ‘Bous will be seeking their second Allan Cup championship in three years, having won the national senior hockey championship in 2011.
Clarenville heads west April 14 and play their opening game two days later against a British Columbia entry yet to be decided.
Hapgood said he hopes to get most of the team together for a few practices before they leave for the tourney.
“Other than that,” he said, “the guys will be expected to do some skating on their own to stay in shape.”
Clarenville is in a division with Alberta’s Stony Plain Eagles and B.C., while the host Bentley Generals will play in a division with Ontario and the West regional representatives, both of which have yet to complete their regional playdowns for the right to advance.
The Caribous have selected eight players from three different teams as their pick ups for this year’s tournament including defencemen Mike Dyke and Doug O’Brien along with forwards Ryan Delaney and Chris Hulit from the CeeBees; defencemen Sam Hounsell and Martin Lapointe and forward Matt Quinn from the Grand Galls-Windsor Cataracts; and forward Brett Morrison from Corner Brook.
Chad Locke of the Gander Flyers and the Cats’ Luke Gallant were asked but both were unavailable to make the trip.
“It’s a good lineup,” said Hapgood. “It may even be stronger than our 2011 lineup… on paper. We probably had more role players on the 2011 team,” he said of the roster which was made up of a combination of Clarenville and C.B.N. players only.
“The battle for the top two lines was set in 2011 and everyone knew it,” explained Hapgood. “Now, with this team, the fourth line would probably feel they are as good as the first. How that will shake out in a three or four day tournament you never know.
“You can pick the best possible players but you never know how they’ll come together in a short time. But, the guys we picked up are not only good hockey players but good guys as well.”
As far as chemistry is concerned, Hapgood says “it’s always good when you are winning. The chemistry is challenging when you are losing.”
“That 2011 team came together real fast. There was great chemistry immediately. We also got some breaks and that’s the reality of winning these sorts of tournaments.”
Half of the players picked are defenceman and Hapgood says that wasn’t a coincidence.
“The fact is there are a lot of good defencemen spread throughout the league this season.”
The team felt “comfortable” with goaltenders Jason Churchill and his backup Roger Kennedy, and didn’t move to pickup league MVP and provincial senior goalie of the year A.J. Whiffen.
Aside from the team’s two puckstops, the rest of the roster consists of current Caribou players David Victor, Brandon Roach, Jeremy Kavanagh, Jordon Smith, Blake Gallagher, Ryan Desrosiers, Matt Bragg, Brad Crann, Dustin Russell, Dale Sullivan, Andrew Sweetland, Stephen Oates and Brandon Street.
Hapgood is expecting a tough tournament, noting that, “It’s more competitive when it’s played in the west.”