Caribous beat Cataracts twice at home after falling behind 3-0; head back to Grand Falls-Windsor down 3-2
The Clarenville Caribous, it seems, play their best hockey with their backs to the wall.
Facing a 3-1 deficit heading into Game 5 of The Telegram Herder Memorial Trophy Championship Series Sunday, the Caribous took advantage of a depleted and tired Grand Falls-Windsor Cataracts’ blueline for a second straight 5-2 win at the Clarenville Events Centre.
© — Photo by Kenn Oliver/The Telegram
The Grand Falls-Windsor Cataracts' Rodi Short picks up a loose puck as teammate Mike Sibley keeps the Clarenville Caribous' Mitch Oake at bay during Game 5 of the Telegram Herder Memorial Trophy Championship Series Sunday afternoon in Clarenville. The Caribous won 5-2, but still trail the Cataracts 3-2 in the best-of-seven series which continues next weekend in Grand Falls-Windsor with Game 6 Saturday night. A Game 7, if necessary, is set for next Sunday afternoon.
“Our game plan worked to a T, and it didn’t hurt that we ended up getting a five-minute power play early,” Caribous coach Ivan Hapgood said.
The Cats lost rearguard Brad Lewis early in the first period after his two-handed slash on Clarenville’s Brad Crann earned him a five minute major and a game misconduct. Grand Falls-Windsor was already short on defence with Greg Hoffe out for work commitments and captain Michael Brent serving a one-game suspension for a fight with the Caribous’ Terry Ryan in the waning seconds of Saturday’s Game 4, also a 5-2 win for the Herd.
“Our guys were prepared to play big minutes, and when you’re put in that situation,” said Cats’ coach Shane Lukinchuk, “it’s important that if you’re going to play 25 or 30 minutes, you play a smart 25 or 30 minutes.
“We were playing really well up until that point.”
The Caribous, down 1-0 on a goal by Brandon Nicholas, got goals from Ryan Delaney and Dale Sullivan in the five-minute span with the man advantage.
“I remember looking at Chad Earle and saying, ‘We’ve got to come out of this 2-1,’” noted Delaney, who netted his second of the game near the midway point of the third to put the ’Bous up 4-2. “With the skill on both teams, special teams were bound to be a big factor.”
Clarenville’s penalty killing units, which were suspect in the first four games of the series allowing five goals, also showed a marked improvement in Game 5, surrendering just one goal and limiting the Cats in three other odd-man opportunities.
“We know if we get into penalty killing, we’re going to get in trouble,” Delaney said. “We saw that four games in a row, but we adjusted and our PK is doing really well for us right now.”
Lukinchuk, meanwhile, defended the work of the four defencemen — Luke Gallant, Rodi Short, Sam Hounsell and Scott Cantwell — who remained after Lewis was tossed.
“This was their third game in two and a half days,” he said. “They did what they could, but they were tired, no question.”
Somewhat lost in the Caribous’ win to stay alive was a steady goaltending performance by Jason Churchill, easily his best of the series so far.
“In the last two games, I think we saw the Churchill of old,” said Hapgood, who suggested Churchill wants to stake his claim on the team’s blue ice over Cataracts’ goaltender A.J. Whiffen, who has been enlisted to join the team at the Allan Cup national senior hockey championships later this month in Dundas, Ont.
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“He doesn’t want us going to the Allan Cup and people asking, ‘What are we doing starting the second best goalie while the best guy is sitting on the bench.’”
For the second game in a row, the Cats’ line of Andrew Brennan, Cam Fergus and Rob Hennigar — the latter pair finished one-two in league scoring in the regular season — were held in check by the Caribous’ unit of Crann, Dustin Russell and Mitch Oake, with help from the defensive pairing of David Victor and Nick Croft.
Lukinchuk said his line needs to get back to a simpler, grittier game and, “fight through the little bit of shadowing, the aggressiveness, and the body contact.
“They’ve got to find a way to create a little time and space and at the same time, simplify things. It’s a very skilled line, but at times they try to overdo it a little bit.”
Lukinchuk won’t make wholesale changes to his lineup ahead of Game 6 next Saturday night in Grand Falls-Windsor.
“We adjusted a little bit throughout the game, mixed it up a little bit, but I don’t want to steer too clear of what’s gotten us to this point.”
The Cataracts, Lukinchuk insisted, were prepared to come away from the weekend with a 3-2 lead in the series, “it just so happened the game we won was on Friday.”
“But at the same time, if we had lost Friday and Saturday and won today, we would have been tearing the place down and full of excitement about being up 3-2. We’ve got to take the positive spin on this.
“Just because it was the first one we won (in Clarenville), we can’t dwell on the last two losses. We come out of here with a 3-2 lead in the series and get to go home and hopefully close it out. That’s the way we have to look at it.”
As for the ’Bous, Hapgood acknowledged with the Cataracts holding home ice advantage and the all-important last change, the plan of attack will have to be adjusted to stay alive and force a deciding Game 7 next Sunday afternoon.
“We’ve played four games in that building this year and have neither win to show for it, so we’re due for one now, for sure.”
Also scoring for Clarenville Sunday were Chad Earle and Dustin Russell, into an empty net.
Mike Sibley had the other Cataracts goal and Whiffen faced 34 shots.