Central West in Review

Updated: November 24, 2014

With 8 games in the books and all teams having faced one another for at least two games, it is time to take a critical look at the action so far.

Taking a look at the obvious statistic, it is evident that there is for the most part a great amount of parity that exists amongst the top three teams in the league with just 1 point separating first and third.  The Clarenville Caribous (5-2-1) cling to a one-point lead with 11 points, that one point coming from an overtime shootout loss to the Corner Brook Royals.  Both the Corner Brook Royals (5-2-0) and Grand Falls Windsor Cataracts (5-2-0) are tied for second with 10 points each.  The Gander Flyers occupy the basement in the four team league with just 3 points and a record of 1-6-1 after eight games.

The Flyers record would indicate that this organization has to do something quickly to get back into the race or they will have an early exit come playoff time.  However, Flyers’ president Pat Woodford indicates that they have done, and are continuing to do what is necessary to put the best team on the ice given the resources available to the organization.  He also understands the frustration that the fans are experiencing because of the team’s record.

It is interesting to note however, the Gander Flyers defeated the defending league & Herder Memorial Champions, the Grand Falls-Windsor Cataracts at home in the opening game of the season.  They have also tied the Clarenville Caribous, losing in a shootout.  The Flyers believe they have a team that matches up with other teams in the league.  However, those who have watched the games have indicated that while the Flyers have a very young and impressive team, there are some aspects of their game that needs improvement.

Many fans point to the Flyers import Greg Stewart as being an under-performer, indicating that his play is not what they had they had expected.  If you compare Stewart’s performance to that of the imports on other teams, you can easily see why this player has not been the impact player the Flyers had hoped.  Stewart has just 2 points (1G, 1A).  Ryan Desrosiers with the Caribous on the other hand has 13 points (5G, 8A).  Cam Fergus has 13 points (8G, 5A) with the Cataracts and his teammate Collin Circelli has 9 points (2G, 7A).  The Royals Phil Mangan has 8 points (3G, 5A).  This clearly demonstrates that import players if selected properly can and will have an impact on the team’s performance.  The Flyers have little choice but take a hard look at the contribution Stewart is having on their lineup and compare it to the cost of having him play.  There may be better local talent capable of filling the spot currently occupied by this import player.

The Gander Flyers given the great effort on the ice and the hard work by their management behind the scenes, there has to be some improvements made to improve upon what many fans are describing so far as a disappointing start to the season.  However, history in the Newfoundland Senior Hockey Leagues shows that from such rocky starts come great teams and you only have to look at the efforts made in Grand Falls-Windsor in rebuilding the Cataracts.

It should also come to no surprise that the Clarenville Caribous are currently sitting in first place.  The Caribous have been arguably one of the most successful Newfoundland senior hockey teams ever and their performance on the ice shows it.   Their team has 5 players in the top 10 for scoring.  Andrew Sweetland has been tearing up the score sheet game after game.  They have perhaps the best one-two punch in goaltending at the moment with Jason Churchill and Ryan Mior although Mior’s availability is in question because of school, work and personal commitments.

The last two series, the Caribous have played with an extremely short bench and during one game they were playing with just 12 players and a goalie.  However, they managed to squeak out a split in both series, showing just how much talent this team has in their lineup.  With injuries hitting the team in their defensive core, it will be interesting to see how long this team can continue to win, especially when they have players logging a considerable amount of time each game.

There is however, no doubt that the Clarenville Caribous will be in the thick of things battling for first place right to the end of the season.

The return of the Corner Brook Royals to the league this year was met with both skepticism and excitement this season.  Ross Coates made the decision to leave Deer Lake and return to the city and vowed to bring the Herder back home.  The team has a complete new look and many of the old Royals players have moved on.  Darren Langdon and Darren Colbourne make up perhaps the most experienced coaching staff in the league and they have had an impact on the team.

In the early goings this season, many recognized that the Corner Brook Royals were much improved on their defense.  Dane Marshall and Derick Martin have been stellar on the backend and this has allowed their goaltender Bryan Gillis to be more effective between the pipes.  Gillis has played exceptionally well in his first eight games and has made big save after big save.  There is no denying that this is in large part because of the improved defensive team in front of him.  The Royals are much more disciplined and it shows in the statistics.  They are the least penalized team and their power play has performed reasonably well.

Where the Royals need to improve is in their scoring.  They currently rank third in goals scored with 22, just 2 goals above the Gander Flyers.  This highlights even more how much more improved this team is defensively, having to rely more on their defense to shut down their opponents than they do on their scoring punch.  However, the Royals snipers started to score against the Gander Flyers, with both Hunter Tremblay and Chris Hulit scoring several times.

If the Royals continue to improve and play great defensive hockey, it is quite possible that Ross Coates may have the Herder back in the Corner Brook at the end of the season.  This team will definitely be in the hunt for top spot in the league and the championship given their performance thus far.

Finally, we have the Grand Falls-Windsor Cataracts.  This team currently has one of the most well rounded teams in the league and their current performance shows just that.  The team is gradually improving with each game they play and despite having split series against the other three teams in the league they will be a force to be reckoned with.

Up front, the Cataracts have one of the hardest working players in the CWSHL.  Cam Fergus brings his “A” game each night and his work along the boards and in the corners is unmatched by many in the league.  His line mate Collin Cercelli compliments Fergus’ skillset, making this duo one of the best in the league.

The Cataracts have shown they are also one of the best forechecking teams around.  They put pressure on their opponents in deep which forces them to make slopping passes up the middle or cross ice, allowing the Cataracts scoring opportunities while at even strength.  In their defensive end, the Cataracts are quick to move the puck along the boards, enabling a very fast transition game.  Their hard hitting defensemen are always pressuring their opponents, forcing lazy passes that often results in odd man rushes.

Look for the Cataracts to be tough down the stretch as they defend their league and Herder Championship.

What are your thoughts on the teams this season?  Where do you see improvements being required?  What changes would you make?  Drop over the forum and discuss things.

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