Flyers end regular season with losses to league’s top team
The Gander Flyers wrapped up its regular season in Grand Falls-Windsor over the weekend, but with numbers short and more than enough injured bodies either resting on the sidelines or playing hurt, the end result was a sweep from the Cats.
Andrew Pearcey led the way on Saturday night in the 5-1 win with two goals and an assist, while Andrew Brennan, Kyle McGuirk, and Rob Hennigar rounded out the scoring. Jon Reid responded with a power-play goal for Gander, which was his first as a member of the purple and gold.
The Flyers only had 16 skaters on Saturday night, and that number dropped even further on Sunday to 13.
With such a short bench on Sunday, the Flyers couldn’t keep up with the Cats, who earned the sweep with a 10-4 win. Cam Fergus led the way for the Cats with a four-goal night, while Matt Squires scored two for the Flyers, which were his first two Newfoundland and Labrador Senior Hockey League goals. Reid and Sean Wadden potted singles in the loss.
“You’re up against the best team in the league and that’s the bottom line here,” Flyers’ head coach Dennis Laing told The Beacon on Monday. “Grand Falls-Windsor is in first place for a reason, and they’re a very strong team. We had players who played hurt, and I’m a big fan of the players that showed up to play over the weekend. They played hard and they gave 110 per cent.
“Sunday’s game was a game where we couldn’t stop the bleeding. They have such a talented team, and when you have to play catch up with talented teams with such a short bench, you’re going to get burned, and we were hurting, especially on defence,” added Laing. “I can’t stress enough how much effort our short-benched team put in over the weekend against a very strong Cataracts’ squad.”
The Flyers were missing five of their better players before the puck dropped on Saturday night, including Chad Locke, Peter Campbell, Andrew White, Mitch Flynn, and Ryan Matheson. Defenceman Tim Sullivan got hurt on Saturday night, as did James Keough and Steve Pearson.
That’s eight bodies right there that are feeling the effects of a long season of senior hockey, and Doug Hardiman has been playing injured the past few weeks.
Luckily for the Flyers, the team will have two weeks to heal before they head to Deer Lake over the Feb. 15 weekend to open the post-season against the Western Royals.
“It’s really too bad, but we have a two-week break here, so we’ll hopefully get everybody back when playoffs start and we’ll have a full lineup again,” said Laing. “We’ve always said we’re a team to be reckoned with when we have a full lineup and players get a few games under their belts.”
The lack of players in the lineup meant Laing had to rearrange his lines a little bit, and to his surprise, one makeshift line proved to form instant chemistry.
Squires, Reid, and Wadden got to play on a line upfront, and what they lacked in size they more than made up for with skill.
“Squires definitely had an excellent weekend, as did Jon Reid. Both of those guys played really well,” said Laing. “I had Squires, Wadden and Reid together, and they had very good chemistry. There’s a lot of skill on that line, and it showed on Sunday against the Cataracts. They really brought it up a notch when they played together.”
The Flyers are off this weekend, and will head to Deer Lake later this month to play the Western Royals in the opening round of the playoffs.
The Flyers went 3-3 against the Royals throughout the regular season, and Laing said his team seems to be at its best whenever those two teams face each other.
“I think the smaller rink in Deer Lake is more suitable to us,” said Laing. “We play very disciplined against them, and we don’t fall behind against them. Most of the time we play them, we get a jump on them. Going into the playoffs, we know we’re going to have to be disciplined.”
Laing is hopeful his players will rest and heal up during this lengthy break, and when his team heads to Deer Lake later this month, he’s confident he can mix and match lines with Western.
“Western has three or four really good lines, so our game plan is to match off against their lines. I think I can match what they put out on the ice. Whether that’s their first or second lines or not, I feel like we can match it,” said Laing. “I think the first game against Western is going to be a really, really good game. Western has a very good team, and I think we can match them. We’ve proved that we can beat them, and playoffs is a different world, but we have the team that can give the fans some playoff entertainment.”