Cataracts head into second half with impressive 12-2 record
© Matt Molloy photo
Brandon Inder, right, of the Grand Falls-Windsor Cataracts battles Gander Flyers' defenceman Brad Slaney for a loose puck in the corner during Friday night's provincial senior hockey game in Gander. The Cats thumped the Flyers 6-1.
The Grand Falls-Windsor Senior Cataracts finished the first half of their 2013/14 season over the weekend winning a pair of home-and-home games against the Gander Flyers.
The wins put the Cats 12 wins, 2 losses for the first half. They’re in first place in the Newfoundland Senior Hockey League with 24 points, five points ahead of the second-place Clarenville Caribous.
Cataracts coach Shane Lukinchuk told the Advertiser he’s pleased with where his team sits after the first half.
“We’ve got a lot of new faces this year with some young guys. We’ve got a couple of new imports, we’ve got a couple of players we picked up in the draft, so overall there’s a big change in personnel,” he said. “That was difficult at the start and I think it took us a little while to find our way as a team.”
Despite the new faces, the Cats didn’t miss a beat early in the season and Lukinchuk said it didn’t take long before the team dynamic solidified.
“You can really see it in the last few weeks that our group is coming together; there’s that team camaraderie that you can see, everyone enjoys each other’s company.”
Although Cataracts fans might have been a little weary to the big roster changes, and losing some big names and fan favourites, the numbers speak for themselves.
The Cats have three players in league’s top five. New import Rob Hennigar leads with 29 points, four goals and 25 assists. Andre Gill is in second place in the league with 22 points, 15 goals and seven assists. Cam Fergus, another new import, has also been doing the team proud. Standing in sixth place for points, Fergus has 11 goals and 8 assists for the season.
“Gill and Hennigar have certainly found their way. Hennigar is a playmaker and Gill is a finisher, and those two work well off each other,” Lukinchuk said.
Luke Gallant is also having a great season, he’s in fourth place for points with three goals, 17 assists.
Last year’s league MVP A.J. Whiffen has had another consistent season so far; no surprise to his coach or fans.
“I think A.J. has also been fantastic for us all year, his competition level isn’t something you see often out of goaltenders; it’s fun to watch him,” Lukinchuk said.
Lukinchuk said it’s hard to single out players as being top contributors, adding he thinks the reason for the Cats’ success so far has been how well they work as a team and the talent and drive in all their lines.
“We’re a tough team to beat, we’re four lines deep,” he said. “Everybody plays night in and night out, and it’s nice that we had that ability to roll four lines. That’s where we can have an advantage later on in the year when we’re not breaking guys down, we’re not overusing them and overplaying them and we get contribution out of everybody.”
Lukinchuk said he’s enjoyed the season so far and is looking forward to the second half.
“It’s been a lot of fun to come to the rink this year, it’s been very refreshing,” he said. “I think we’ve shown what kind of character and what kind of people we have on this team.”
The Cataracts now have a few weeks off to recoup before heading into the second half of the season.
Their first set of games in the New Year will be big ones. The Cats will take on the Caribous in Clarenville on Jan. 4 and 5 where they’ll have a chance to either widen the gap between first and second place, or see Clarenville close in on that first place spot.
Until then, Lukinchuk said he wanted to pass along holiday greetings on behalf of the whole team.
“On behalf of the organization we’d like to wish Merry Christmas to fans, staff, volunteers, everyone involved with the hockey team,” he said. “Have a safe and happy holiday.”