Cats ready to shake off rust for Herder date with Caribous

Brendan McCarthy
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So much for getting into a playoff rhythm.    
The Grand Falls-Windsor Cataracts have to be seen as at least slight favourites heading into the Herder Memorial Trophy provincial senior hockey championship against the Clarenville Caribous, but you can’t really say it’s because the Cats have been on a roll.

Grand Falls-Windsor Cataracts

Yes, Grand Falls-Windsor followed up a first-place finish in the Newfoundland Senior Hockey League by sweeping the Western Royals in the NLSHL West division final, but those four games with the Royals represent the only action the Cataracts will have seen between the end of the regular season Feb. 9 and the start of the best-of-seven Herder final next weekend at Joe Byrne Memorial Stadium in Grand Falls.

That’s four games in 40 days.

Cataracts’ head coach Shane Lukinchuck admits the 13-day layoff between the end of his team’s series with the Royals and the start of the Herder final is a bit of a concern, but notes they have recent experience in dealing with the effect of downtime.

“Before that series (with the Royals), we had 20 days with no games, and no practices even before we had one on the Friday before the series started Saturday,” said Lukinchuck, whose team had a bye through the first round of the playoffs by virtue of its regular-season finish.

“So yes, there was a little bit of concern going in and, yes, the rust was evident in that first game.”

In that contest, the Royals jumped to a 2-0 lead in the first period, but the Cataracts went on to win 4-3 in overtime, one of two OT victories in the series.

“The timing was off and we started slowly, but like I said, we weren’t surprised,” said Lukinchuck. “It was something we expected and we worked our way through it.

“They key is to keep things simple at the beginning and that’s what we’ll do again.”

Even though rust might be an early concern in the Herder final, the Cataracts’ head coach is not worried about rot.

“This a very mature group. With half our guys here and the other east of here or imports, we haven’t practised, but guys have been on the ice and we know they look after themselves. No worries there.”

And there is the health benefit that comes with hiatus, Lukinchuck noting there were more than a few “bumps and bruises”  coming out of the series with Western.

“That comes not just from taking hits, but giving them, too. They (the Royals) were physical and so were we.”

While Grand Falls hasn’t played since finishing off the Royals March 9, the Caribous last played Friday, when they downed the Mount Pearl H.J. Bartlett Electric Blades 8-3 in Clarenville to take the best-of-seven East division final in five games.

“We’re two teams with a lot of skill and that’s skill throughout the lineups,” said Lukinchuck when asked for a quick lookahead to the series with the Caribous, who finished second overall in the regular-season standings, seven points behind Grand Falls-Windsor.

“I don’t mean just skill in the top six or the top nine. There’s also offence in the back nine for both teams.

“The playoffs often come down to a test of depth and there is a lot of depth on both sides. That should make for some good hockey.”

The Herder final begins with games at Joe Byrne Saturday and Sunday. Tickets for the two games are $28 each (including a $3 league surcharge) and will go on sale for Cataracts holding-seat owners this evening and Tuesday (7-9 p.m. both days) through the Joe Byrne box office. Sales to the general public begin Thursday evening.

Game 3, 4 and 5, the latter if necessary, will be in Clarenville March 28, 28 and 30. If the series goes further, it would wrap up in Grand Falls the following weekend.

Details for ticket sales for Herder games at the Clarenville Events Centre are expected to be announced this week.

Grand Falls-Windsor (19-5-0 in the regular season) won three of four meetings against Clarenville (13-6-5), but one of the Cataracts' wins came in a shootout and the Caribous were outscored by just a 17-16 margin in the four games.

Clarenville also seems to be entering the provincial final with its offence in tip-top shape, having scored 18 goals in the last two games with Mount Pearl.

Friday night at the CEC, Andrew Sweetland had a hat trick, Brad Crann added two goals and the Caribous outshot the Blades 45-21 in the series-clinching victory.

bmcc@thetelegram.com

Organizations: Caribous, Newfoundland Senior Hockey League, NLSHL West division Clarenville Events Centre

Geographic location: Clarenville, Joe Byrne Memorial Stadium, Grand Falls.That Grand Falls

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  • Shea Heights Hound Dog
    March 17, 2014 - 14:46

    Should be a good series, both teams are even. Was hoping to see a game at Mile One.......kidding we won't go there. I did attend game 2 of the Avalon East League last night St. John's and Northeast. What a game, 4-3 in OT. Nothing online about it though, do they promote this league? I won't be going to another game though, buddy next to me was spit on by a St. John's Player. I won't name names, I don't have to. Anyone that follows hockey will guess it in.....one guess. Disgusting, no security at the arena either. Talked to former Sr hockey greats Don Roche and Ed Oates at the game, they agreed it was the most stickwork they've ever seen in sr. hockey. Not sure of the midgets name who was reffing but he lost control of the game when the puck dropped. Then he called a penalty with 1:20 to go against Northeast, ruined a good game. Bounces can go either way though. Anyhow good luck to both teams in the finals, and both teams in here in the East League. I won't see another game unless I brings an umbrella to avoid being spit on. Gross, most classless team I've ever seen. Looked across the rink then and seen the coaches pat him on the back. Never seen the likes before in my life.