By Kyle Abbott
The St. John's Pennecon Privateers head into the final weekend of the regular season this weekend, and will wrap things up at home against cross-town rival, St. John's Maple Leafs.
Despite leading the Leafs in the standings by 5 points, the Privateers know they need to being their "A" game this weekend to keep the Leafs at bay, and avoid falling to second place.
When asked about it, Assistant Coach Kris Abbott had this to say, "It will be a test for sure. We haven't had this type of test since Moncton, so it will be a good challenge for our guys. They've got a skilled group of forwards that can be explosive when given time and space. Not to mention, Josh Carey really proved himself to our staff in our series earlier this season, so we know what we're up against. Our goalies have given us a strong backbone all year though, allowing us to play the style of game we want without worrying who we have between the pipes."
"With the battle for first place on the line I suspect these games to be some of the toughest we've had to date. I'm sure both teams have had this weekend circled on their calendar. We've progressed well as a team so far this year and when we've challenged our players they've always responded, and this weekend will be a challenge." Head Coach Doug Jackman said late Monday night when I spoke with him.
We talked to Justin Walsh, a forward with the Privateers, and he said, "This is a big series, as it will determine who finishes in first place. We're going to prepare hard for this series like all the rest. They're all points that we must have."
Goaltender Matt Jenkins added that "it should be a hard fought and intense series between us and the Maple Leafs." Matt Kennedy agreed with Jenkins, while stating, "we've come together well as a team and we've had lots of success this year, which can be attributed to our systems play. We hope to continue that this coming weekend. We need to work hard and hopefully the bounces to go our way."
The Privateers are coming off a bye week, while the Leafs spent the weekend in Lewisporte, sweeping the Central IcePak, including a crazy 16-8 victory on Sunday.
There are a number of scenarios that will see the Privateers cement top spot heading into the playoffs. The Leafs, however, need to win all three games in regulation. Catch all the action from the Goulds Arena, starting 6:30pm on Friday, continuing 8:30pm on Saturday and wrapping up 10:00am Sunday morning.
Clark Bishop will miss the first game of this series as he wraps up his 3-game suspension, while defenseman Dylan O'Leary will sit out the entire weekend, as he continues to serve a 5-game suspension which was handed down after his fight with Dylan Budgell of the Western Kings in the second game of their series at the beginning of the month.
While the Privateers, Leafs and Kings have all clinched playoff spots, the final one is still up for grabs. The Tri-Pen Lions currently hold a three point lead over the IcePak, and those two teams will meet for a three game set in Placentia after Christmas. There will be another chance for Tri Pen and Central to gain some points as all 5 teams converge on Clarenville for a Showcase Weekend, February 3-5 in a round robin event where the points will count towards final league standings.
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NL Major Midget "AAA" - St. John's Maple Leafs, Western Kings, Central IcePak, and the Northern Huskies.
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