The national hockey championship is under way and ITS Cayman are looking for repeat success.
The Logic Adult Roller Hockey League squad won the 2011 Spring title at Kings Sports Centre. Now, players like team captain Mark Missal, have their focus on hoisting the Cup once again.
“Our chances of retaining the championship are great,” Missal said. “We’re on a roll going into the playoffs, our guys are healthy. We’re the favourites to win, we’re always the favourites to win in my mind.”
ITS are battling the High Rollers for the 2011 Fall trophy this week. Game one was played last Sunday and game two is slated for Tuesday, 13 December, at 8pm. Game three would be Wednesday, 14 December, at 7.15pm if necessary.
The High Rollers like their chances against ITS. For High Rollers forward Chris Creighton, another championship is far from a given for the white and blue gang.
“I would say our chances are good,” Creighton said. “The teams are pretty evenly matched skill-wise and it’s going to be a good battle. I know the boys are looking forward to it. We are all key on our squad. We need everyone playing their best.”
Both finalists had largely disappointing seasons. While defending champions ITS finished second in the regular season, they had a mediocre 5-5 record. They had the league’s second-best defence (allowing 57 goals) but their offence was near the bottom with 64 goals scored. The High Rollers had a regrettable campaign with a 4-6 mark. They scored 66 goals (second most in the league) but allowed 72 goals (second highest in the competition).
There are some positive statistics for ITS. They sport the league’s best goal-tender in Randy Cannon (a league-best 78.8 save percentage and 193 saves) and three of the league’s top 10 scorers in Missal (24 points), Curtis Appleyard (19 points) and Joe Jewitt (17 points). Missal, who had a league-best 20 goals, states the talent is there.
“We have more guys that can step up and we’re a better team on paper. We just got to step up and prove it, top to bottom. Randy is the key for the series. Without good goal-tending we don’t win games. We got to stop players from scoring and Randy has played real good.”
The High Rollers’ stats are also noteworthy. Their goal-tending was OK as Andrew Finlason had 144 saves but was at the bottom in save percentage (63.9 per cent) and goals allowed (52 goals). Offensively three players ranked in the top 10 in scoring in Dan Etherington, Eric Mildenberger and Scott Somerville (with 23 points apiece).
ITS and the High Rollers have a rivalry going, dating back over the last few years to when ITS were known as the Budget Beavers. It came to the fore last season when ITS beat their arch-rivals to win the championship. Creighton, who ranked 14th in the league with 13 points, states that will not happen again.
“We need to play man to man and take away their shots. ITS plays great as a team but they derail when you get in their head. They’ve got a strong goalie backing them so we also need to fire as many on net as we can. Every goal is going to count in this series.
“ITS is our favourite team to play and we definitely have a score to settle with them. Beating them for the Cherry Cup just makes it that much better.”
Missal states not much has changed on his side this season and that the final result should be the same.
“Player-wise we only had two new guys in defenseman Chris Wilson and forward Ryan Pull. Though we lost Chris Moser (who left the island) the new guys have played good. Ryan for example chipped in with goals and they both helped out great.
“We like facing the High Rollers and beating them. We look forward to it. The team is full of guys hoping to win and we matched up better in the season, better than say the Islanders (who were the regular season champions at 7-3). Of course we always look forward to the winner’s bar tab at Doghouse, we love free beer.”