Caribous win Allan Cup opener

Robin Short
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Clarenville scores three third-period goals to squash Kenora Thistles’ comeback

The Clarenville Caribous scored three third-period goals, and Jason Churchill withstood a 15-shot barrage in the final 20 minutes as the Atlantic representatives from Newfoundland opened the 2014 Allan Cup Canadian senior hockey championship with a 5-2 win over Ontario’s Kenora Thistles in Dundas, Ont.

“The first period was close,” said Clarenville coach Ivan Hapgood, “but we were fairly dominant in the second.

2014 Allan Cup

“Problem was, we had nothing to show for it. We still had only a 1-0 lead. It was kind of scary, actually, because I said to someone, ‘Just watch, they’ll score a couple now.’

“I was worried about jinxing myself.”

It turns out Hapgood had no reason to fret as the Caribous got third-period goals from Rodi Short, Cam Fergus, Martin Lapointe and Luke Gallant, the latter into an empty net.

Ryan Desrosiers scored in the first period, for a 1-0 Clarenville lead which stood for two periods.

Churchill, the 2011 Allan Cup MVP, the year Newfoundland won only its second national senior title, stopped 25 of 27 shots, including 13 in the third.

Clarenville is in a division with Kenora and Brantford, Ont., with the top team in the round-robin getting a bye to one of Friday’s semifinal games.

Monday, Brantford beat Kenora 5-4, meaning a win over the team from Wayne Gretzky’s hometown 5 p.m. (NL time) today will give the Caribous a date in the semis.

Clarenville is icing a team with at least eight players from other teams in the Newfoundland Senior Hockey League, four from the Herder Memorial Trophy champions Grand Falls-Windsor Cataracts (the Cataracts beat the Caribous 4-2 in the Herder final) and one — Chris Hulit of Sault Ste. Marie, Ont. — who didn’t play in the league this season, but has toiled for Clarenville in the past.

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“There’s really no concern about team chemistry,” Hapgood said. “I mean, let’s be honest, our league is a bit different than most in that everybody knows each other.

“Half our guys skate with the Grand Falls guys, or they’re playing baseball together, or they hang around with each other. They’re not strangers.

“Eighty per cent of the players are in the St. John’s area, and on any given night you could have five Caribous, five Cataracts and five CeeBees on the ice together in town.

“So team chemistry is not an issue.”

Clarenville reached the Allan Cup final last year in Red Deer, Alta., but dropped a 3-0 decision to the homestanding Bentley Generals.

Hapgood makes no secret of the fact the Caribous want another crack at Bentley. Moreso given the fact the Caribous are playing host to the Allan Cup next spring.

“We’re raring to get back at them,” he said. “The team we had last year was a little different from this year’s team. This year, we have two offensive lines and two defensive lines.

“Last year, we had a lot of offensive players. And you know what they say, offence wins games, but defence wins championships.”

The Allan Cup final is set for 4:30 p.m. Saturday (NL time) and will be broadcast on TSN.

Organizations: Newfoundland Senior Hockey League

Geographic location: Clarenville, Newfoundland, Sault Ste. Marie Grand Falls Red Deer

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