TORBAY, N.L. — The Clarenville Ford Caribous senior hockey team gained redemption tonight, and made hockey history at the same time.
With a 6-1 victory over the St. John’s Green Sleeves Senior Caps, the Caribous claimed this year’s Herder trophy, and Rebecca Russell became the first woman to coach a team to Herder victory.
Coach Russell, who is the first woman to coach a senior hockey team in this province, could not be reached for comment, but Caribous Captain Dustin Russell shared the emotions of the team in a post-game telephone interview with The Packet.
“There’s a wide range of emotions right now. I’m obviously elated and happy for the guys on the team that’s their first time winning a Herder.”
Russell says the team came into Game 4 ready to play. But while they cruised to a comfortable 6-1 victory — the Caps scored their only goal in the second period — Russell says they didn’t want to take their opponents for granted.
“We just wanted to finish the job. We were so close last year; this year there was nothing stopping us.”
The captain added they had an outstanding following from their fans and they’re proud to be able to bring home another trophy to put in the case — although they’re still hoping to eventually win a title on home ice.
All four of the Caribous Herder wins have been on the road.
“It was a pleasure to share it with them. It’s unfortunate, for whatever reason, we haven’t been able to win a Herder at home … but a lot of our die-hard sponsors did travel on the road with us, so it was special to share it with them.”
The deciding game four of this year’s championship on Saturday night at the Jack Byrne Arena began with early domination by the visiting Caribous, going up 3-0 in the opening frame.
In fact, Clarenville defenceman Justin Pender scored to start the game only 38 seconds in, while Keith Delaney and Chad Earle added their own markers later in the first period.
In the second, the Caps got on the board when former Caribou Terry Ryan found the back of the net only minutes into the period.
But in the rest of the frame, the Caribous poured on the offence — essentially sealing their title early.
The Reid brothers, Kevin and Mason, scored followed by Earle potting his second goal of the game to bring the score to 6-1 at the second intermission.
Kyle Downer replaced Scott Bray between the pipes for the Caps to begin the third, but the damage was already done. Neither team managed to score in the third period, and the Caribous hung on for a 6-1 victory.
Caribous’ general manager Ivan Hapgood told The Packet after tonight’s game that this win is the result of the team pulling together and going on a run since the Christmas break that has been “unbelievable.”
Hapgood also credited the players for their commitment to the team, on and off the ice. After Christmas, the players decided to forgo their pay for the rest of the season to provide financial relief for the organization.
“We were at crucial time at hockey in Clarenville; (if not) for the players we would have been done … I certainly wasn’t surprised, it’s a great bunch of guys, they deserve the result here tonight,” he said.
As for the controversy from last year’s Herder result — the ‘Bous lost the fifth and deciding game of the finals to the Conception Bay North CeeBee Stars when, in the dying minutes, the puck passed under the side of their net and was called a goal — Hapgood says it’s the last thing on his mind right now.
“I moved past last year the day after it happened, to be honest with you. There was no point to harp on it. To me, it’s not about redemption, those things happen in the game.
“But did it give us more reason to pull together and get this result? Yes, it certainly did … But the result here tonight is the result of the effort we put in this year and nothing to do with last year at all.”
Dustin Russell added he feels like they’ve been working two straight years for this year’s Herder trophy.
“We’re more than happy to say the least.
This Herder championship is the fourth for the Caribous organization. They won the title in 2009, 2010 and 2012.