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Goalie Ryan Hancock has to be on top of his game for bottom-ranked Stephenville Jets

Stephenville Jets goalie Ryan Hancock has seen a lot of rubber this season as the team’s last line of defence.
Stephenville Jets goalie Ryan Hancock has seen a lot of rubber this season as the team’s last line of defence. - Randy Alexander

It’s no secret the Stephenville Jets struggled this season in the West Coast Senior Hockey League.

The club posted the only losing record of the three-team outfit, going 2-8-2 and suffering through a -41 goal differential.

Only Ryley Nadon of the Port aux Basques Mariners faced more shots than the Jets’ Ryan Hancock — 367 to 266 — and Nadon played in four more games.

The 27-year-old netminder from St. Anthony joined the team after a successful stint with the Deer Lake Red Wings last year that saw him lead the league in wins as he backstopped the team to a four-game sweep over the Corner Brook Royals to win the Cliff Gorman Memorial Cup as league champions.

Once the Wings folded, he wasn’t sure if he wanted to even play this year, but Jets general manager Art Barry convinced him to come out for a couple of skates with the team.

“I couldn’t really go through a season and not play hockey,” Hancock says.

Suffice to say, this season has been a much different experience than last — but it’s the proverbial new season now, as the double round robin semifinal has commenced and literally nothing from the regular campaign matters anymore.

That’s good news for Stephenville, as Hancock says the team as is currently stands isn’t the same as the one that took to the ice at the beginning of the year.

“It’s night and day from the first game I started up until now,” he said, pointing specifically at the team’s opening game of the playoffs versus the Royals.

They lost 7-4, but were tied 2-2 after two periods.

“I felt like we were in pretty good shape going into the third period,” Hancock said.

A classic butterfly goalie, the six-foot-two, 205-pound Hancock has been playing hockey since he was in Grade 4. The sport brought him to the Port aux Basques Mariners in the old junior B league, before suiting up for a stint with the Southern Shore Breakers of the St. John’s Junior Hockey League.

He’s been a goalie his entire hockey life and his reasoning for that is simple.

“Because I wasn’t a very good player,” he says with a laugh.

“On my buddy’s rink, they’d always stick me in goal, so I ended up being a goalie.”

His importance to the team is evident, and he says it’s what makes him enjoy the position so much.

“The team lives and dies by the goalie, normally,” he said.

Hancock and the Jets face the Royals 8 p.m. tonight at the Corner Brook Civic Centre. If the Royals win, they punch their ticket to the best-of-seven league final.

More importantly for Hancock, a Jets loss puts them in an 0-2 hole that would make next weekend’s home-and-home set with the Mariners to close out the double round robin two must-win games.

He acknowledges a personal rivalry with the Royals and admits he looks forward to playing them, but the most important part of a positive outcome would be what it does for the Jets, not what it does to the Royals.

“Beating them is not really looking to diminish their success,” Hancock said. “More so trying to find Stephenville’s success.”

Along with the game tonight in Corner Brook, Saturday night will see the Royals head to Port aux Basques to battle the Mariners at 7:30 p.m. at the Bruce II Sports Centre.

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