The City division may have won its fourth straight Kent St. John’s Junior Hockey League all-star game Thursday night, but the Avalon division served notice that any gap between the two four-team pools is quickly narrowing.
After 60-minutes of end-to-end, practically contact-free action, the City team skated off the ice with a 11-8 win at the Jack Byrne Arena in Torbay, this after winning the past two all-star games by six goals or more, including a 12-3 rout in 2010.
“That’s an indication of how close the league is getting between the two divisions,” said City head coach Brian Cranford, bench boss for the league’s second-place Mount Pearl Mark’s Work Wearhouse Blades.
Cy city teams might be on top of the standings, but every game we’re playing now is tight.”
The City squad’s captain Thursday, Mask Security Celtics blueliner Dan Cadigan, says there’s more parity between the two sections than in his first season of junior.
“This year, you’ve got to come to the rink ready and if not, you’re going to get blown out,” said Cadigan.
Asked what it’ll take to finally bridge the divide and get the Avalon division back in the win column, coach Eugene Hutchings, who leads the Trinity-Placentia I.J. Smith & Son Flyers in league play, is blunt in his assessment.
“Another Daniel Ryder,” Hutchings said of the former OHL sniper from Bonavista who never actually played in the local junior circuit.
That said, early on it looked like Avalon, sponsored by Extreme Pita, might be on its way to the victory after opening up a 4-0 lead in the first five minutes with goals on City starting goalie Nick Rodway from the Blades. However, the City side has clawed back to make it 4-3 by intermission.
Cranford wasn’t worried about the early deficit.
“Once they got out and relaxed a little bit, started shooting the puck, they started to go in,” he said.
The City side, sponsored by Booster Juice, stormed out in the second with three unanswered goals to take a 6-4 lead and would go on to outscore Avalon 5-2 in the period and lead 8-6 after 40 minutes. They added three more in the third while holding Avalon to just a pair.
Still, Hutchings was pleased with the effort put forth by his team.
“I think our boys from around the bay did very good tonight.”
Avalon Roebothan McKay Marshall forward Mike Cole led the City team’s attack with three goals and a helper and was named the home team’s Jungle Jim’s player of the game. St. John’s Toyota Plaza Caps forwards Kyle McGuirk and Mike King had two apiece. The Celtics’ Chris Ryan, Avalon’s Nick Bray and Mount Pearl’s Aaron Schwartz had goal and two assists each. Celtics forward Matthew Oates tallied once.
Between the pipes, Rodway stopped three of seven shots, St. John’s keeper Scott Bray made 16 saves in the middle frame and three-time all-star netminder Kyle Downer of Avalon turned away 12 of 14 shots against.
For Avalon, Conception Bay Regional Assante Wealth Management Renegades’ Dan Roberts counted twice and earned visiting player of the game honours. Single goal scorers for Avalon were the Southern Shore C&W Offshore Breakers tandem of Shane Boland and Andrew Gale, the Trinity-Placentia I.J. Smith & Son Flyers’ Liam Myers, the Conception Bay North Slateworks Stars’ Jake Galbraith, and Kyle Hutchings and Corey Humby from the Renegades.
In net for Avalon, C.B.N. ’keeper Jason Penney allowed three goals on 15 shots in the first period, the Flyers’ Justin Harnum allowed five goals on just 10 shots and Brian Ronayne from the Breakers made 11 stops.
Shots overall were 37-36 in favour of Avalon.