St. John’s takes 3-0 lead in final against Avalon, can wrap up second straight league title Thursday
The Avalon Capitals’ David Hickey (2) tries to block a shot from by the St. John’s Caps’ Chad Furlong in Game 3 of the teams’ Kent St. John’s Junior Hockey League final Tuesday night at Goulds Arena. The Caps won 4-1 to take a 3-0 lead in the best-of-sevens series which resumes Thursday, 8 p.m., with Game 4 at Twin Rinks. Furlong scored twice in his team’s victory.
— Photo by Kenn Oliver/The Telegram
The St. John’s Caps can celebrate a second straight Kent St. John’s Junior Hockey League title with a win over the Avalon Capitals in Game 4 of the teams’ best-of-seven championship final 8 p.m. Thursday at Twin Rinks.
But standing between the Hickman Automotive Group Caps’ and their bid to repeat as champs is a Roebothan McKay Marshall Capitals team, one their head coach insists can get back in the series.
“We need to realize how good we can be,” David Hutchens said after a sluggish 4-1 loss Tuesday night at Goulds Arena, which left Avalon down 3-0 in the best-of-seven series.
“We need to play the hockey we’ve played for the last six months. If we can pull up the intensity a little bit, I think we can get a couple of wins and get back in this.”
Beyond the similarity in their monikers, the Caps and Capitals are two very different teams on the ice. While St. John’s plays a high-octane, physical game, Avalon is content with a more defensive style, keeping opponents to the outside while exploiting their defensive lapses.
“We know we’re going to get outshot, that’s fine with us,” says Hutchens. “We sit back and soon as they cough up the puck we need to take advantage of that more. They’ve been making enough mistakes that we should be capitalizing.”
The fact the Capitals are playing a short bench, rolling three forward units to the Caps’ full four, hasn’t helped. Furthermore, the call-ups the team has used throughout the regular season play for the Gonzaga Vikings, who are taking on Holy Heart of Mary in the city high school league finals this week.
“We’ve got five guys on our team with injuries, two of them had gear on tonight, but realistically they probably shouldn’t have,” Hutchens says of defenceman David Hickey, who is playing with a shoulder injury suffered only three weeks ago, and sniper Michael Cole, who has a lower-body injury. Those who didn’t play were regular-season starting goalie Andrew Caines, and forwards Matt Scott and Brandon Goobie.
“When you’re missing key role players, guys that log ice time so your top players can rest, every hit you take and every penalty kill wears and tears on the body,” says Hutchens. “Having three or four players on the bench, no matter the skill level, would really go a long way.”
Hutchens says while injuries and fatigue have been a factor in the first three games, the team isn’t using it as an excuse.
“We’re getting beat by a better team right now. If our guys can step up that one little extra notch, we’re cruising to fourth gear, if we can step it up to fifth, we can make something out of this.”
Caps’ head coach Paul Whittle, meanwhile, knows his team has benefitted from Avalon’s struggles and their plan of attack won’t change.
“If we don’t hit them, they’ve got some talent and they’ll make stuff happen,” says Whittle.
“A big part of what we’re doing is taking their space away and getting in their faces.
“The fourth game in a series is always the hardest to win, no matter who you play. We know we’ve got to keep the same effort.”
The Capitals opened the scoring Tuesday with the Bobby Squires beating the Caps’ Scott Bray. Avalon held the tenuous 1-0 lead until the last minute of the second frame when Riley Edwards and Justin Walsh to put the Caps up 2-1 after 40 minutes. Chad Furlong added two third period goals, one of them into an empty cage with the Capitals’ Doug Pippy on the bench for an extra attacker. Walsh was the Caps’ Jungle Jim’s player of the game while Squires took the honours for the losers.
Shots were 44-26 in favour of St. John’s.