ITS battle for Cherry Cup kudos

The Budget Beavers were a finalist in last season’s local roller hockey championship. This season the side has a new name but is back competing for a national title.

ITS Cayman are in the 2011 Cherry Cup finals for the Logic Adult Roller Hockey League. Their opponents this year are the top-ranked 8-2 High Rollers, a dynasty that has won three titles in the last three years. So far ITS looks poised to win a championship after the squad won game one of the best-of-three series on Tuesday 5-4 in over-time.

A big part of that result was ITS top scorer Mark Missal, who netted a couple of goals. Missal had the shooter’s touch much of the year, placing second in scoring for the regular season with 37 points off 26 goals. The team captain states he is confident in his side’s showing thus far.

“It’s nice to get that game one lead,” Missal said. “We don’t have to worry so much in game two. On the other hand we don’t want to go to a game three. We want to make the series short and sweet and end it next Tuesday.”

Game two of the finals is Tuesday 24 May at the Logic arena of Kings Sports Centre. The presence of ITS in the series is a bit of a surprise as the side struggled to a 4-6 regular season finish and a third place seed. In the semi-final they got revenge for last year’s title game defeat by taking down reigning champions the Islanders 3-2 in overtime.

Missal states that match is the latest in a string of positive showings in the last few weeks.

“We took the Islanders out in overtime and it was the same score as game one of the finals. Our defence and our goal-tending came up big. On the whole it has been a typical season for us. We were short of players much of the year. But we’re always about the playoffs and the regular season doesn’t mean a whole lot.”

One of the reasons why ITS’ final berth is shocking is due to an under-achieving offence. For all of Missal’s brilliance, the historically potent side managed just 57 goals in the regular season, worst in the league. One of the typically strong scorers who faltered was Chris Moser. The forward states the team turned things around after a horrid start.

“We’ve faced the High Rollers some four times in the final and it was a surprise to do so this year,” Moser said. “It was an off year because it was just the second time we were not first or second and we started the season 0-4. But we moved on from that because it’s playoff hockey. We went out thinking we just got to win.

“We lost forward Tim MacDonald two seasons ago and goalie Ryan Vanderwal last year. They were big parts of the team. But we got a couple of decent guys and turned it around. Even though I’ve fallen off, because I’m getting older I guess, Mark has stepped up and Joe Jewitt emerged as our second-leading scorer (17 points off 11 goals). We can beat any team now.”