Matt Bragg had a hat trick and captain Dustin Russell added a pair as the Clarenville Caribous completed the weekend sweep with a 8-4 win over the Western Royals in NLSHL hockey action on Sunday afternoon.
With the win, the Caribous are now four points clear of the Royals in the race for second place and home-ice advantage in the playoffs.
For the second consecutive game, the Royals would strike first. Cory Blackmore was able to cut in alone on a quick break and fire the puck low past Caribous’ starter Roger Kennedy for an early lead.
In typical Caribous fashion, they quickly responded, with Bragg netting his first of the game on the power play just over a minute later.
Clarenville got their first lead of the game near the midway point of the first as Russell notched his first of the game on a great pass from Brandon Street.
David Victor and Bragg would score for the Caribous in the first 20 minutes to pace Clarenville to an early 4-1 lead.
Their four-goal first period was the Caribous’ second in a row dating back to last night’s game.
Bragg completed the hat trick on a penalty shot near the midway point of the second period to push the Caribous lead to 5-1.
Royals’ starting netminder Bryan Gillis challenged Bragg with a pokecheck but Bragg was too quick and was able to pull the puck back far enough to get off a quick shot to beat Gillis blocker side.
Mark Robinson temporarily stopped the bleeding with a goal just two minutes later and just when it looked like the Royals would turn up the pressure, Royals’ forward Darren Langdon gets called for a penalty he didn’t like and took out his frustrations on the penalty box, violently smashing his stick against the glass.
His outburst led to an additional ten-minute misconduct and an ejection from the game, much to the delight of fans at the Clarenville Events Centre.
Jordan Smith’s laser from the point beat Gillis and kept the Clarenville fans cheering as the lead grew to 6-2. Blackmore scored his second of the night before the end of the frame as Clarenville took a 6-3 lead into the final 20 minutes.
Russell’s second of the game from a great pass from Brandon Roach stretched Clarenville’s lead to 7-3 but the resilient Royals didn’t give up, with Ryan Penney finding the back of the net to make it close.
Andrew Sweetland gave the Caribous an insurance goal late in the third on a great pass from Steve Yetman but the Royals responded again, this time thanks to a goal from Scott Doody, but it was too little, too late.
Roger Kennedy picked up the win and looked sharp, making 44 saves. Royals starting goalie Gillis was pulled half way through the third period in favour of Brad Dyke. The duo combined to make 33 saves in taking the loss.
Caribous assistant coach Todd Brett was pleased with his team’s effort and is even more pleased to take four points from the team closest to them in the standings.
“That’s huge,” Brett said.
“And there are two bonuses that come with that. We’ve not only put four points between us and them, but we played two solid games for the fans. The fans want to see some good hockey. I’ve always said that you want to win two at home and we’ve been splitting games at home all year, so to win both was great.”
Clarenville is on the road next weekend for a two-game set against the Gander Flyers on Saturday and Sunday.