GRAND FALLS-WINDSOR, NL – Sunday’s weekend finale between the Exploits Blades and Springdale Braves certainly had a playoff atmosphere to it.
Players were vocal and the game was rough, and at the end, both teams commented on the fiery atmosphere.
“We needed to have a playoff mentality … it was do-or-die for us,” said Carter Fancey, who picked up the wins between the pipes for the Blades. “The guys really shut it down in the neutral zone and gave me a lot of lanes to see the puck. The boys stayed patient and really shut it down, and at the other end put the puck in the back of the net.”
“Both teams needed wins this weekend,” added Braves player Daryl Robinson. “There was urgency on both sides, but when it came down to it, those guys wanted it more than we did.”
The Blades swept the two-game set against the Braves, winning Saturday evening 5-3 and again on Sunday 5-2.
The Braves enjoyed early success on Sunday. With goals from Steve Newman and Damien Simmons, along with strong goaltending from Wayne Clarke, the Braves took a 2-0 lead into the second period.
In the middle period, however, the Blades exploded with five unanswered goals, led by a pair from Brad Manuel, and skated away with the win.
Fancey gave credit to the Blades leadership group for keeping the squad poised after a testy opening period.
“Not much (was said). There’s a lot of teams that would panic in that situation, but we have a good group,” he said. “We stayed cool because we knew our chances would come.”
The second period caused the Braves some trouble at the Joe Byrne Memorial Stadium. All but one Blades’ goal came in those second periods, and that’s ultimately what cost the Braves, according to Robinson.
“We played four good periods out of six this weekend, but you obviously need to play six strong periods to be successful,” said Robinson. “We had 10 goals against, and nine came in those second periods. There was a letdown there, and that’s what really cost us.”
The Braves have also gone through a bit of a skid since the second half of the season started. They enjoyed some time at the top of the league standings but have since dropped. Robinson said a lot of that comes to parity and how good the league’s teams are.
“The league is even up and down the board,” he said. “Some guys in this league work away, so different guys are coming into the lineup, but it doesn’t seem to matter. There’s parity all the way through.”
Playoffs begin this weekend with the Blades (third) travelling to Twillingate to play the Combines (second), and the Braves (fourth) visiting the Northeast Sabres (first).
Heading into the final weekend of regular season action, there was plenty of room for movement, and nobody knew what the matchups would be.
The Blades didn’t care who they were going to play in the opening round of the playoffs, according to Fancey.
“We have a pretty good grasp on every team in this league,” said Fancey. “We know what their strengths and weaknesses are, and I think we can put up a good game against any team, either on the road or at home.”
Visit the league website for more www.cnhleague.com