© — Photo by Matt Molloy/The Advertiser
The Grand Falls-Windsor Cataracts’ Luke Gallant gives the Clarenville Caribous’ Ryan Desrosiers a shove as Cats goalie AJ Whiffen lays in the crease during Game 2 of the Telegram Herder Memorial Trophy Championship Series last weekend in Grand Falls-Windsor. The Cataracts take a 2-0 lead into Game 3 Friday at the Clarenville Events Centre.
Grand Falls-Windsor not taking Clarenville Caribou for granted in Game 3
The Grand Falls-Windsor Cataracts are sitting nicely in this latest edition of the Herder Memorial Trophy final, needing only two more victories in five tries to win that town’s 12th all-Newfoundland senior hockey championship.
The Cataracts took the first two games of the best-of-seven Herder final, winning 4-2 Sunday afternoon and 5-1 in the series-opener Saturday night.
Despite being up by a pair of games on the Clarenville Caribous, the Cataracts are looking at Friday night’s Game 3 at the Clarenville Events Centre as a critical point in the series.
A win would place Grand Falls-Windsor, 19-5 during the regular season and 10-2 on home ice at the venerable Joe Byrne Memorial Stadium, squarely in the driver’s seat and the pedal to the metal. More important, perhaps, it puts the Caribous even further back on their heels and possibly sucks the wind out of what should be a sold-out Clarenville rink this weekend.
“Certainly in any series,” said the Cataracts’ all-star defenceman, Luke Gallant, “Game 3 is one of the most pivotal points.
“A win no doubt puts us in a very good position, but we can’t look that far ahead. Game 1 wasn’t one their best efforts, but the Caribous were much better in Game 2. They will be a much different opponent, especially on home ice.”
Gallant, the Bedford, N.S. native who played two years of major junior hockey in St. John’s when the Fog Devils were housed at Mile One Centre, reports the Clarenville Events Centre has a larger ice surface than the friendly confines of the Joe Byrne arena, named after the Hall of Fame former import player and coach, and long-time provincial hockey technical director.
“Our rink has got to be smaller,” Gallant said, “definitely in width.
“With the bigger ice in Clarenville, you’re really going to notice it on the power play. They will have a lot of time and space, and they can make you look silly if you’re not moving your feet.”
The Cataracts are now 6-0 in the post season, having disposed of the Western Royals in four straight games in the semifinal. The first-place Cataracts earned a first-round bye.
Naturally, Gallant likes where his club currently sits, a team that is at its peak at the right time of the year.
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“We’ve really been able to jell as a unit the past two months,” said Gallant, 27, living and working in St. John’s. “We were able to compete with the physical style of play of Western, without (high-scoring forwards) Andrew Pearcey for three games and Cam Fergus for a couple.
“That gave us a lot of confidence.”
Confidence is an intangible the Cataracts were certainly lacking last spring. That’s when the Conception Bay North CeeBee Stars, fourth-place after the regular season and 27 points behind first-place Grand Falls-Windsor, upset the Cataracts in the first round of the playoffs.
Just like that, the Cats’ 20-3-1 season was done.
“To have something like that happen,” Gallant said, “it only makes you hungrier to win the next year.
“The fans in Grand Falls-Windsor would like to see a championship given what happened last season.”
Not that Gallant is making plans for the Herder parade just yet. It’s a seven-game final, after all, and the Cataracts are only half way there.
And Gallant knows all about playoff upsets. In 2009-10, he was a key part of the University of New Brunswick team that went 27-1 in the Atlantic University Sport conference. Despite the Varsity Reds’ dominating season, UNB dropped three straight games to St. Francis Xavier X-Men.
The next year, UNB returned with a vengeance, winning the AUS conference championship and the national title on home ice.
“When you exit early, you have to take it as a learning experience,” Gallant said. “Sometimes you need a setback before you move forward.”