Clarenville Caribous coach Randy Pearcey admits he had some initial concern that adding players from the Deer Lake Red Wings for his team's Allan Cup run could upset the Caribous' chemistry.
The reigning provincial senior hockey champs head to Fort St. John B.C., Sunday to represent Newfoundland and Labrador in the Canadian senior hockey championship for the first time since Corner Brook Royals captured the Cup in the 1985-86 season.
"I've soul searched about what adding players might do to the team chemistry since we won the Herder," admitted Pearcey. "It was a big concern of mine."
However, after addressing the team and being upfront about who is going to play in B.C., Pearcey said he isn't one bit concerned about disrupting the chemistry on the team which beat Conception Bay North CeeBee Stars 4-1 for the 2010 Herder Memorial Trophy title.
"We practised for an hour and a half last Saturday and it was like a bunch of kids, I bag-skated them," Pearcey said with a laugh, "and there wasn't even a grunt."
Pearcey said he also spoke to the players after a second practice and laid down the ground rules.
"They were like kids in a candy store," he said. "They just can't wait to get at it. They understand some guys won't get much ice time and some won't even dress for the games and they've accepted that.
"I'll tell you this," Pearcey added, "if we lose it won't be from lack of heart and effort."
Fact is, Pearcey said, Newfoundland cannot win the Allan Cup using only local players.
The former provincial senior hockey great skated in a number of Eastern Canadian and Allan Cup games throughout his playing career, and said Newfoundland lost simply because this province didn't have the depth.
"We didn't have two quality goalies or two quality scoring lines then," he said.
"I think we have that (depth) by combining with Deer Lake. I'm not going to Fort St. John for a holiday. If I want a holiday, I'll go to Florida. I'm going up there to try our best and win this."
The six teams competing for the Canadian senior AAA championship are divided into two, three-team divisions.
Clarenville, representing the Atlantic provinces, will play in a division with host Fort St. John Flyers and Bentley Generals from Alberta. The other division includes Powell River B.C. Regals, South East Prairie Thunder from Manitoba and Dundas Real McCoys from Ontario.
After divisional round-robin play, there will be crossover playoffs featuring all the teams starting Thursday. The top teams in each division after round-robin play get a bye to the semifinals Friday.
The championship game is slated for 6:30 p.m. next Sunday.
The Caribous open against Fort St. John Tuesday before playing defending Allan Cup champions Bentley Generals Wednesday.
"I don't know much about our competition and that's a good thing," said Pearcey. "I think you can over-prepare. What our team has to do is go out and play the game the way we are successful. There's no pressure on us."
Clarenville has added six players from the Red Wings, half of them imports.
Pearcey confirmed he's picked up defenceman Kyle Spurr from Hamilton, Ont. and Nathan Saunders from Charlottetown, P.E.I. Saunders came up through the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and played pro in the AHL and ECHL, while Spurr has OHL and AUS experience. Goaltender Paul Drew is from Merlin, Ont., and has OHL, AUS and ECHL experience.
Also suiting up for the Caribous from the Red Wings are Newfoundlanders Mark Robinson and Rob Robinson along with Chris Peach.
"Our game is to move the puck quickly," said Pearcey, "and use our speed and we feel we can win against any style that's thrown at us. When we go up there, we should be able to adapt our game to any style we need to. I don't think we'll get blown out of any game."
Pearcey is taking enough players to B.C. for five lines, but he says he's likely to go with just three to give the skilled players the quality ice time they need.
"My biggest problem is figuring out who gets the ice time. I know we'll have two scoring lines that can compete with anybody in Canada," he said.
"I think we'll be strong in goal and while we may have been little bit weak on defence because we have some injuries, but I think we'll be fine with our pickups."
Pearcey said there's a chance that Deer Lake's Darren Langdon, who is on vacation in Florida, may join the team.
"Some of the guys making the trip might not get to play or even dress for a game, but everyone on the team who wanted to go, we took them," said Pearcey.
Caribous defenceman David Victor is unavailable due to a broken wrist.
"He was willing to take his cast off to play, but I wouldn't let him do that," said Pearcey. "But you see how much he wanted to play."
Pearcey said that attitude just about sums up the way everyone on the Caribous feels.
The Caribous Allan Cup schedule is:
(All times Nfld.)
Tuesday, April 20
12:30 a.m., Clarenville vs Fort St. John
Wednesday, April 21
Clarenville vs Bentley
Thursday, April 22, 6:30 p.m., third Div. 2 vs second Div. 1
Thursday, April 22, 12:30 a.m., third Div. 1 vs second Div. 2
Saturday, April 23, 6:30 p.m.
Saturday, April 23, 12:30 a.m.
Sunday, April 24, 6:30 p.m., semifinal winners (Game broadcast live on TSN2)
Clarenville's Allan Cup roster is:
Head coach: Randy Pearcey
Assistant coaches: Ivan Hapgood and Todd Brett