Cataracts, Caribous split to close NLSHL regular season

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Blades secure home-ice advantage in first round series vs. CeeBees

Granted, there is lots of hockey — two playoff rounds — to be completed before the participants in the 2014 Newfoundland Senior Hockey League (NLSHL) and Herder Trophy final are decided, but it can’t be seen as a stretch to suggest the Grand Falls-Windsor Cataracts and Clarenville Caribous are the favourites for the matchup.

After all, the Cats and ‘Bous finished 1-2 in the NLSHL regular-season standings, substantially ahead of the rest of the field.

Who would have an edge in such a series?

Well, not much was revealed in that regard over the weekend in Clarenville, where the Cataracts and Caribous closed out their regular schedules by splitting a pair of games.

Grand Falls-Windsor prevailed 5-2 on Saturday, while Clarenville rebounded to double the visitors 8-4 on Sunday.

There was one other NLSHL game on the weekend. It was played in Harbour Grace, where the Mount Pearl H.J. Bartlett Electric Blades downed the defending Herder champion Conception Bay North Eastlink CeeBee Stars 7-3 in Harbour Grace.

Other than a preview of a possible final, there wasn’t a whole lot meaningful about the weekend games in Clarenville. The Cataracts had already clinched first place, while the Caribous were firmly locked into second overall and the No. 1 seed for the East division playoffs.

Sunday’s game represented the last competitive hockey either team will play for a while as both will get byes through the first round of the playoffs, which will be conducted over the next two weekends. The East division semifinal will see the Blades taking on the CeeBees, while the West semifinal will feature the Western Royals and Gander Flyers.

Mount Pearl and Western will have home-ice advantage in those best-of-five series.

The semifinal winners advance to meet the Caribous and Cataracts in best-of-seven divisional finals, scheduled to start on the weekend of March 1. However, the schedule for the series involving the Caribous may be impacted by the Newfoundland and Labrador Winter Games, which are being held in Clarenville March 1-9.

Clarenville 8, Grand Falls-Windsor 4 (Sunday)

Mitch Oake had a hat trick to lead the Caribous. Ryan Desrosiers, Brad Crann, David Victor, Brandon Roach and Ryan Delaney (who added three assists) also tallied for the winners.

Andre Gill scored twice for the Cataracts, making him the league’s regular-season goal-scoring leader with 24 markers. Mike Brent and Andrew Pearcey also scored for Grand Falls-Windsor.

Grand Falls-Windsor 5, Clarenville 2 (Saturday)

Gill and regular-season scoring leader Rob Hennigar each had two goals for the Cataracts, while the visitors’ other tally came from Cam Fergus, who finished as runner-up to teammate Hennigar in the league’s points race.

Keith Delaney and Stephen Oates were the only Caribous to beat Grand Falls goalie A.J. Whiffen, who made 35 saves.

It had been a busy day for Whiffen, who had spent Saturday morning serving as emergency practice goalie for the AHL’s St. John’s IceCaps after the IceCaps found themselves temporarily down a netminder because of a season-ending injury to Eddie Pasquale.

Mount Pearl 7, CeeBees 3 (Saturday)

This game had some meaning, since a CeeBees’ win would have secured them home-ice advantage in their first-round series with the Blades, but Mount Pearl got a hat trick from Ryan Graham and 45 saves from goaltender Rian Mior to gain the victory and finish three points up on the Stars.

Graham added an assist for a four-game, while Blake Gallagher had a goal and two helpers for the Blades. Steve Tilley, Cory Blackmore and Mark Tobin also scored for Mount Pearl, which concluded the season with a .500 record (12-12).

Matthew Quinn, Daniel Sparkes and Chris Sparkes replied for the home side, which managed its 48-shot performance despite dressing only 13 skaters.

The CeeBees finished with a 10-13-1 record, their 10th win coming when the Royals defaulted a contest that had been scheduled for Friday at S. W. Moores Memorial Stadium in Harbour Grace.

That was to have been a make-up for a Jan. 19 game at the Moores Stadium that was postponed after one period when a malfunctioning ice resurfacer damaged the ice and the game could not proceed.

The result of the make-up game would not have affected the Royals’ place in the standings.

Organizations: Mount Pearl H.J. Bartlett Electric Blades, The East division, IceCaps

Geographic location: Clarenville, Newfoundland and Labrador, Mount Pearl Grand Falls Moores Stadium

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