Flyers back in Gander
Game five could clinch finals this Friday in Gander
Clarenville leads senior hockey series
CLARENVILLE, NL — It was a rough weekend for the Gander Flyers, losing games three and four to the Caribous in Central West Senior Hockey League (CWSHL) playoff finals.
As close as the games were, Clarenville came away with two hard-fought victories on home ice at the Eastlink Events Centre (EEC).
The thrilling contests saw the Caribous take a 3-1 series lead over their rivals before heading back to Gander this weekend.
Flyers’ head coach Rick Sheppard says while he’s disappointed with the result of games three and four, he’s never been disappointed with the play on the ice and his players’ effort.
“Our team is all heart and soul,” he said in an interview with the Packet. “We’ve had a lot of good things happen this year … for the most part, I’m disappointed with the loss but always proud of my team.”
Sheppard adds the team probably played a better game on Saturday night compared to Sunday’s game four, saying a 3-0 lead is “the worst lead in hockey.”
“Clarenville are a patient team and they capitalize on our mistakes a lot of the time … We lost a little control through the middle of the ice,” he says. “For the effort that we put in and the way our team plays, I’m very impressed.”
Sheppard says after coming so far this year, his message of positivity is still on the forefront of the team’s minds as the series is certainly not over yet.
“They’ve still got to win one more and we’ve got to win three … We still have faith.”
In Saturday’s game three, the first two periods ended in a scoreless draw as each team vied for the opening goal in the pivotal matchup.
Only minutes into the third period, Clarenville seized the opportunity on a goal by Keith Delaney. The home team added to its lead on the power play as Kevin Reid scored.
The Flyers kept pace, scoring minutes later, but Kevin Reid added another for the Caribous — his second of the game — putting his team up 3-1 with 6:50 remaining.
With time ticking away, Gander pulled within a goal when Andrew Ryan scored with 3:27 left on the clock.
From there, the ‘Bous were able to hold off the Flyers and hang on to the 3-2 victory. Both teams finished with 22 shots on goal in game three.
Game four was also close and the Flyers came out with a big lead to the begin the epic game.
Minutes into the first period of game four on Sunday afternoon, the Flyers thought they had taken a 1-0 on the power play after a Justin Pender penalty for interference, but the goal was disallowed because the net was off its moorings before the puck was buried in the top corner.
The score remained 0-0 for all of several seconds as Gander’s Josh Fitzgerald finished a passing play while still on the manadvantage.
The Flyers continued to dominate the play with an extra attacker over the rest of the period, adding another power play marker when Brett Shute scored about five minutes later to take a 2-0 lead.
There was a scary moment following the goal as Caribous’ standout Kevin Reid took a hard hit and remained on the ice for several seconds. While he stayed on the bench in the minutes following the spill, Reid didn’t play for the rest of the game. There was no penalty on the play.
Minutes later, Pender grabbed Shute and pummeled him while officials tried in vain to split the two up. Both players received offsetting roughing penalties, while Pender was given an extra two minutes for unsportsmanlike conduct, served by Rod Mahoney.
In their third power play of the opening frame, the Flyers found the back of the net once again. This time, Thomas Hedges scored for the visitors, making the deficit 3-0 for Clarenville.
And with just over two minutes remaining in the first, Ryan Delaney was penalized for both a slashing and cross-checking infraction, totaling another four minutes in the box for the home side.
To begin the second, Caribous’ goaltender Jason Churchill replaced Tyler Whiffen — who had initially been given the start to the game. The ‘Bous began a run that would see them reverse their fortunes in the hopes of salvaging the game and series.
Once they killed the penalty, Clarenville potted its first goal of the game off a juicy rebound past Flyers’ goalie Doug Pippy — scored by Keith Delaney and assisted by Pender and Ryan Desrosiers.
Ryan Delaney pulled the ‘Bous within one goal as he stickhandled his way on a rush, firing a shot home much to the delight of an energized crowd.
The home fans battled quite a few Gander supporters throughout the afternoon with dueling “Go ‘Bous, go!” and “Go Flyers, go!” chants. But with the score still 3-2, the visiting spectators were drowned out by the home faithful as the Caribous fought hard for the tying marker.
The crowd was quieted once again about halfway through the second when ‘Bous forward Chris Sparkes was called for tripping, but the EEC erupted as Ryan Delaney scored his second goal of the game on a shorthanded breakaway to even the game.
If the tying goal’s reaction was loud, the arena became unglued when, after killing the penalty, Mason Reid scored to take a 4-3 lead.
Fans taunted the Flyers’ goalie with calls of “Pippy, Pippy…” after the netminder allowed four goals in just over 10 minutes of play.
While Gander coach Rick Sheppard called a timeout to settle his team, the Caribous continued the momentum, scoring again on a breakaway — this time Desrosiers — to take a twogoal lead, 5-3.
Before the end of the second, the Flyers showed life as Jordan Escott scored to make the game 5-4 heading into the final and deciding period.
Caribou forward Kenny Mahoney opened the scoring in the third, extending the Clarenville lead to 6-4.
From there, Clarenville bled the clock to hold on and secure the win despite a disallowed breakaway goal due to a hooking call on the Caribous late in the game.
Ryan Delaney completed his hat trick with an empty-netter, making the final 7-4.
This upcoming weekend, the series will conclude with at least one, but possibly as many as three more games. Game five will be in Gander on Friday night and game six — if necessary — will return to Clarenville. If the series needs a game seven, the two teams will play in Gander on Sunday afternoon.
It looked like Flyer Andrew Ryan roofed the puck on the power play past goalie Tyler Whiffen, but officials waved off the goal.
This scrum resulted in another power play for the Flyers and a chance to score their third goal.