Blades on the brink

Brendan McCarthy
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The Clarenville Caribous’ Dale Sullivan (left) tries to corral the puck for a shot on Mount Pearl Blades’ goaltender  Ryan Mior as Blades blueliner Roger Pender defends in Game 2 of teams’ best-of-seven Newfoundland Senior Hockey League semifinal series. The Caribous lead the series 3-1 and can clinch a berth in the Herder Memorial Trophy final with a win in Game 5 tonight, 8 p.m., at the Clarenville Events Centre.

Mount Pearl needs three straight wins to stay alive in NLSHL semifinal series vs. Clarenville

Ryan Graham of the Mount Pearl H.J. Bartlett Electric Blades is a “glass half-full” guy, as illustrated by his answer when asked how he assessed the 10-3 thumping the Blades suffered at the hands of the Clarenville Caribous Sunday in Game 4 of their Newfoundland Senior Hockey League (NLSHL) East division final.
“It’s almost better to lose that game 10-3 than 3-2, do you know what mean?” said Graham. “If you lose a close one, you’re thinking about what you might have done or could have done.

“This way, it’s easier to put it behind you and concentrate on the next game.

“In that game, they were a better team. In the next one, we have to be.”

That next one is tonight (8 p.m.) at the Clarenville Events Centre, and it’s a do-or-die contest for the Blades, who trail the best-of-seven series 3-1. The series winner will advance to face the Grand Falls-Windsor Cataracts in the Herder Memorial Trophy provincial senior final. The Cataracts swept the West division final, knocking off the Western Royals in four games.

The first three games of the East series were close ones, with the Caribous taking Game 1 in Mount Pearl 4-3 and following up with a 6-4 victory at the CEC. The Blades got their win last Saturday at the Mount Pearl Glacier, with Graham scoring the only goal and Ryan Mior delivering a 23-save shutout performance in a 1-0 win.

But things certainly changed in Game 4, which saw the Caribous chase Mior late in the second period after the goaltender gave up six goals on 23 shots.

“We didn’t get much in the way of bounces and it seems every opportunity they had, they capitalized,” said Graham, who had 24 points, including a team-leading 14 goals, in 18 games during the regular season.

“They had two goals in the first period and one came on a really bad bounce off the glass. When those things happen, it can be deflating, especially where we had those expectations coming off the win (Saturday).

“And early in the game, we actually had more opportunities than they did. I myself had about four good chances to score.

“But we didn’t score. Then it was like a snowball going down the hill. It just kept adding on.”

“But like I said, that’s the playoffs and that was last weekend. We can’t play that one again.”

As for Mior, recently named the East division’s most valuable player, Graham has no doubts Sunday was an anomaly for the netminder. “He’s been the best goalie in the league, in my opinion,” said Graham. “He’ll be fine. He’s a grown man. He knows these things happen. He gets it.

“He’ll bounce back.”

If the Blades, as a whole, bounce back with a win tonight, the series will move back to Mount Pearl for Game 6 8 p.m. Saturday. Should a seventh and deciding game be required, it would be back in Clarenville Sunday afternoon (2 p.m.). In a way, all will be road games for Graham. The 26-year-old moved to Toronto earlier this year on a transfer with his employer, the industrial supplier Acklands-Grainger.

But never mind all the comings and goings — actual or possible — says the weekend-commuting Graham. The Blades have no choice but to deal with the here and now, which will be the Clarenville Events Centre tonight.

“It’s a tough rink to play in,” said Graham “Their fans are very supportive and home ice helps then with matches and everything.

“But if we can get this thing back to the Glacier, we’ll be OK.

“And we always knew we’d have to win at least one in Clarenville. We just have to make this game the one.”

Organizations: Clarenville Events Centre, West division, East division

Geographic location: Clarenville, Mount Pearl, Toronto

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