Devil Rays sting Sharks late

Cayman’s reigning ball hockey champs are down but not out.

The Deloitte Devil Rays are coming off an impressive 1-1 tie with the Sharks at Kings Sports Center. Deloitte, fourth out of four squads, improved their record to 2-1-4 as a result, while the Sharks remain the frontrunners at 5-1-1.

Mike Hall is the Devil Rays captain and had the key goal in a game that was a rematch of last season’s finals. Hall said he was lucky more than good.

“I think I blocked at least a dozen shots last Thursday,” Hall said. “It’s pretty rare to get double digits – maybe they were just trying to hit me. Anyway, it would have been a shame if we had won on such a crappy goal.”

Hall was credited for the score after his centering pass to Ben Woolf in the second half went off the foot of a Sharks defender and past surprised goaltender Shawn Lunt. Leo Kassam had a chance to pull off the upset in the game’s final minute but his wide-open shot was saved by Lunt. Hall said Kassam should have done better.

“I can’t believe he didn’t bury that. I think it shows that he missed all of the optional off-season training sessions.”

Todd Armstrong scored the game’s first goal on an assist by Claude Plamondon. Aside from that moment, scoring for the Sharks was a struggle as Deloitte’s back-up goalie Jim Johnson was stellar in net. The Devil Rays, who only suited up seven players, also relied on top defensive duo Jason Windsor and Dave Stadnyk. Windsor downplayed the amount of defensive pressure on his team.

“It was a tough game – I was in serious danger of breaking a sweat there in the second half,” Windsor said.

Going forward, Deloitte’s last place defense (which has surrendered a league-high 31 goals) may have found an answer in Johnson, the team’s No. 2 netminder behind Serge Berube. Johnson downplayed talk of emerging into the starting role on a permanent basis.

“I was in net for our first game against the Sharks and they blew us out 11-3,” Johnson said. “So I felt like I had something to prove tonight and I think I did that.”

A change in goalie and an improvement in defense would only be a partial remedy for Deloitte’s woes. The statistics say their offense – which ranks third with 19 goals scored – could be better. By comparison, the Sharks have the top scoring unit with a league-best 35 goals.

Hall said there is no goalie controversy brewing for the Devil Rays.

“There’s no question Chief Berube is our number one goalie, but it’s good to know we have a solid back-up when he’s away.”

For Deloitte, the result is proof the side is not out of championship contention. After a horrible start to the season, the Devil Rays are now unbeaten in their last three games. The defending champs will look to keep the momentum going on Thursday, Nov. 21, against the 3-1-3 Pirates at 8:30 p.m.

The second-ranked Pirates are coming off a 6-5 win over the 2-1-4 Barracudas last week (initially, the league was slated to be on break for Pirates Week but later went ahead with matches as usual). Derek Bruce, Jason Keating and Paul Strenk scored for the winners while Don Gardiner, Francois Lamontagne and Ryan Pull had goals in defeat. The Barracudas are next in action on Thursday at 9:30 p.m. against the Sharks.