CLARENVLLE, NL — It’s the last game of the regular season on home ice for the Clarenville Caribous on Friday night, and team manager Ivan Hapgood says it’s a crucial game fans won’t want to miss.
The Cataracts are visiting from Grand Falls-Windsor and a win for the Caribous on Friday night will put the team that much closer to clinching first place overall for the regular season.
A first-place finish in the regular season will guarantee them a bye into the final series and put them one step closer to the Herder playoffs.
As the Caribous get ready for the weekend, Hapgood is dreaming of a best-case scenario: a win against the Cataracts on Friday night at Clarenville and the Cataracts then defeating the Flyers Saturday night in Gander. That would put the Caribous three points ahead of the Flyers and guaranteed first place heading into Sunday’s game.
Two other scenarios would set up a “do or die” game on Sunday.
“If we win on Friday night and Gander wins on Saturday night, then it will be a one-point difference heading into Saturday,” Hagood explained.
“And if we don’t win Friday night and Gander wins Saturday night, first place will come down to the final game on Sunday afternoon.”
“It’s a make or break weekend for us, for sure,” said team captain Dustin Russell. “And Friday night’s game is probably the most important game we’ll play this season.
“Winning Friday night would put us closer to a chance to get to the Herder.”
He added the Caribous’ lineup for Friday night looks solid. Brad Crann is away for Friday night but will play on Sunday, and Jason Churchill will be in the net.
Russell himself is hoping to play as well. He’s been sidelined for the past two weeks with an injury.
Asked whether the players are feeling anxious about Friday night, Russell replied, “We’ve been playing well since Christmas. Our guys are veterans; we’ve been through Herders and the Allan Cup. We’re not feeling overwhelmed. Friday night will be an exciting challenge for us heading into the playoffs.”
Friday night will also give the Caribous a chance to thank their loyal fans for their support this season, with special fan appreciation events throughout the night.
Hapgood added the team is grateful to the fans who have been loyal to them, and they encourage all fans to get out to the Events Centre in Clarenville this Friday night for what should be a night of great hockey.
“It’s a Friday night, it's 8:30 and if they want a good night of entertainment, this will be the game to watch,” he said.