The Budget Beavers have always been one of the premier teams on Cayman’s roller hockey scene. In spite of being an also-ran this season the squad remains confident heading into the playoffs.
Budget had a good end to a lacklustre regular season campaign last week. The squad beat their arch-rivals the High Rollers 10-8 at the Logic arena of Kings Sports Centre.
The victory sealed a third-place finish in the Logic Adult Roller Hockey League for Budget, who ended up with a 4-5-1 record. This season marks the first time in some four years Budget has finished outside of the top two spots and is the club’s first ever losing season.
Now the side is heading into its opening round playoff match on Tuesday at 9pm. In their way of a berth in the Cherry Cup finals are the 6-3 High Rollers. Budget goalie Ryan Vanderwal has been a Beaver for years and states he is not nervous heading into the contest.
“I feel good to be honest,” Vanderwal said. “We’re sharpening our game and as long as the team shows up we’ll win. We tend to have a lack of subs and when that happens guys get tired and it’s a shooting fest on me.
“As far as our record goes we’ve always won our games in the past and we’re known to be one of the top teams. We just got to wake up and get back to old ways.
“We’ve got the High Rollers number now. They lost a few key guys this season while we’ve just lost one. As long as we get shots on net we’ll be victorious. Everyone on our side contributes equally, we play as a team and the bottom line is we just have to show up.”
Budget have some good stats this season in spite of the departure of top scorer Tim MacDonald. Mark Missal ended up as the league’s leading scorer while team-mate Chris Moser was ninth. Defensive players Joe Jewitt and Rob Leadbetter had career years ranking in the top 20 in scoring (with 12 points apiece).
As usual the High Rollers were one of the better offensive teams this season. Two players were in the top ten in scoring in Dan Etherington (third) and Eric Mildenberger (sixth).
With Darryl Hather still guiding the side as captain and the likes of Chris Creighton and Rob Seward still contributing the High Rollers are a dangerous club. As a result Vanderwal (who hails from Ontario) is not worried about any one player in particular.
“Every player on their team is dangerous. The key to the game is puck position. Whoever gets to the puck first will win.”
Vanderwal, 31, finished the regular season as one of the league’s best netminders. He had the most saves (310) and second-highest save percentage (80 percent).
However he did allow the most goals in the league (62) and the team’s defence was below-par allowing a league high 69 goals. Those facts have the Canadian aiming for a better showing on Tuesday.
“This post-season some of the pressure is on me. Guys like Alex Falconer and Leadbetter play a solid role in the defence but the reality is I have to be on my best form. Once I’m hot I’m hot. I just have to be consistent.”
One of the people who will be looking on at Vanderwal is Kings Sports Centre Athletic Director Ray Singh, who states this season has been memorable.
“The season has flown by but has proven to be a very competitive one,” Singh said. “Unlike prior seasons were there was a clear “top dog”, this season has been very balanced. The Barracudas are coming off of a championship victory back in June and have been dominant all season.
However the final week of regular season games proved that anybody can win. Each team has their own unique strengths and weaknesses and the playoffs will be a testament to how each team manages their weak spots.
“The match to watch is the Barracudas versus Islanders game, which should be physical.
The Barracudas are the most complete team in the league, with a lot of offensive power and their defence is very tough to beat.”