SPRINGDALE, NL — The Springdale Braves began their first season in the Central Newfoundland Senior Intermediate Hockey League with a goal of making the playoffs — mission accomplished.
But you’ll have to forgive team captain Trenton Johanson for wanting more once that step was achieved.
Despite flirting with first place at times in the regular season, the expansion club finished fourth in the five-team league.
“Overall, we did well,” Johanson said. “We didn’t quite get the finish we wanted, coming up a bit short in the standings when I thought we could have done a little better. That just goes with being a new team with a lot of new players, with a lack of experience and some nerves all coming into play.”
The captain said consistency wasn’t there throughout the season, but acknowledged that was the case for most teams because of the league makeup. With about 25 players on a roster and only 15 dressing for a game — often a different 15 — chemistry was sometimes difficult to build.
The Braves entered the playoffs against the first-place and two-time defending champion Northeast Sabres. It may have seemed a monumental task to advance to the final, but the standings were tight, first through fifth, and the Braves swept four games against the Sabres during the season.
It was a similar result in the semi-final series.
“Being able to sweep the first-place, defending champs was pretty good in our books,” Johanson said. “Obviously it would have been better if it was in the final and we walked away with the trophy, but to start off our first year winning our first playoff series was a high note.”
The Braves advanced to play the Twillingate Combines in the final and found themselves overmatched and swept 3-0 in the series (all games by a 4-1 score).
“Twillingate has a group of guys who have been playing together for years and are a well-coached team,” he said. “They have a lot of experience and, at the end of the day, I think that is what it was. Not making any excuses, but we have a lot of inexperience.
“Playoff hockey is different. It is faster, tougher and rougher, and it is something we have to be ready for.”
Against a formidable opponent, the captain said areas of their game could have been better. However, he also said Twillingate must be commended for its strong team and effort in the playoffs.
Overall it was a satisfying first season, according to Johanson, who was still upset the Braves weren’t able to skate away with the championship.
“We were happy with it as a whole, being an expansion team,” he said. “Going into it, we said if we made the playoffs we would be happy. Now, if you asked me Saturday night if we were happy about it, I would have told you different.”
He also said the Braves had great fan and community support throughout the season. Springdale is a great stop on the circuit for the other teams, he said.
With success on and off the ice, he believes the club is in the league to stay and will be a force for years to come.
Members of the Northeast Sabres could not be reached or were unavailable for comment as of the Nor’wester’s deadline.
Combines sweep series 3-0
SPRINGDALE, NL — The Springdale Braves accomplished a lot in their inaugural year in the Central Newfoundland Senior Intermediate Hockey League, but could not match what the Twillingate Combines brought to the ice in the final series.
The Braves fell 4-1 on home ice Saturday night in Game 3 of the championship series – the same score by which they lost both Games 1 and 2 in Twillingate last weekend – ending their expansion season.
Springdale had flirted with first place throughout the regular season before sliding into fourth seed for the playoffs. The team would sweep first-place and two-time defending champion Northeast Sabres out of Baie Verte in the first round; however, second-seed Twillingate also swept the Exploits Blades in its semi-final series and continued that momentum into the final.
The Combines were just too much for the Braves in the series. In each of the three games, the champions built an early lead and held off any chances of a comeback with solid defensive hockey.
Jordan Bath opened the scoring less than three minutes into the game Saturday night. It was the start a team looking to close out a championship on away ice needed, but not one a team down 2-0 in the series was looking for. Josh May and Alex Gill picked up assists on the game’s first goal.
Wayne Clarke of the Braves and Bobby Gorman of the Combines stood tall in their creases for the rest of the first period and more than five minutes of the second. Eventually, Mike Grimes got another past Clarke for the Combines, with Luc Dearing and Kristian Greenham picking up assists.
With just over five minutes to play in the second, Marcus Adams built a 3-0 advantage on a feed from Dearing. May would make it 4-0 before the second intermission with an unassisted marker.
It wasn’t until just under six and half minutes to play in the game that Riley Burt was able to break up Gorman’s shutout. Jamie Tizzard and Russ Hill collected assists on a goal that only provided a flicker of hope for the hometown fans.
Gorman and the Combines would ensure there was no comeback in the game or series and clinched the championship in a three-game sweep.