Cayman’s roller hockey playoffs are reaching a crescendo.
The Cherry Cup finals for the 2013 fall national inline hockey league start on Dec. 2, at 8:30 p.m. Taking center stage at Kings Sports Center will be the top ranked Cayman Hot Sauce Flames, who swept their opening round, best-of-three playoff series with the No. 4 seed Mepco High Rollers.
Cayman Hot Sauce went into their series No. 1 but were not taking anything for granted. The Flames came out prepared in game one, controlling the play in the first half. Flames goalie Jeremy Olynik made strong saves early in the game on Mark Missal and kept the power forward to only one goal in the first. The Flames continued to move with speed and create opportunities, proving to be too much for the High Rollers.
The first half ended with the Flames up 6-1 and the second half was more of the same as Cayman Hot Sauce were persistent on making a statement, winning 13-4. The stats sheet would show Flames goals from Mike Bowden, Ian Bridges, Chris Anton, Evan Ellbogen, Jagger Hope and Rob Seward. Aside from Missal, Mepco grabbed scores from Derek Bruce and Ryan Pull.
Going into game two, the Flames wanted to set the tone early and close out the series. The High Rollers had other plans in mind as Bruce opened up the scoring six minutes into the game. The Flames quickly rebounded with goals from Bowden and Ellbogen. From there, the Flames settled their nerves and began to take control of the game. The first half ended with a 6-2 tally for the Flames.
Mepco goalie Andrew Finlason fought relentlessly to stop the Flames attack with many spectacular saves. However, he faced a game-high 53 shots and could not keep the Flames off the scoresheet. Once again, Olynik made some timely saves early and the Flames would move on to the Cherry Cup finals.
Cayman Hot Sauce’s opponent will be either the Burger King Gamebirds or the defending champion Deloitte Sharks. The squads went to a decisive game three on Sunday after splitting their first two contests last week. The opening game of the series was a battle from the start. The Gamebirds reacquired Randy Cannon off of injury reserve and the Canadian was back in the lineup after weeks off with a pulled groin.
With Cannon back in net, the Gamebirds were looking to regain their early season form. They opened the scoring early with a goal from Eric Mildenberger but the Sharks are a big, tough team that kept the pressure on Cannon. The first half was a draw at 3-3 with Pete Holowchuk and Rich Hastings scoring for the Gamebirds and Dennis Passchier, Tim Derksen and Dan Etherington scoring for the Sharks.
The second period was all Sharks, as they peppered Cannon with shots. However, he was up to the task and shut them out in the second half. This gave an opportunity for the Gamebirds and they took advantage. Two unassisted goals by Holowchuk and Mildenberger in the second half proved to be the difference as the Gamebirds walked away 5-3 winners.
A big story heading into game two was the absence of Burger King player Martin Wilson, who took three penalties during game one and was suspended for one game. The Sharks were looking to even the series after their strong performance and solve the puzzle that was Cannon in net. The Sharks kept the pressure on Burger King with lots of pucks to the net, using their speed and size to outplay the Gamebirds. Both teams came out strong in the first half, but ultimately Deloitte came out of the first with a 4-3 edge thanks to goals from Etherington, Passchier and Wayne Griffith.
Cannon seemed to be tiring and in some discomfort as his groin muscles were being overworked. He fought through the pain, but couldn’t keep up with the relentless attack from Deloitte. As a result, the Sharks were 6-4 winners and succeeded in tying the series.