CORNER BROOK It could be a couple of days before the Western Royals know if import sniper Brett Morrison will return to the lineup this weekend, but the sooner the better if the west coast squad wants to secure a playoff berth and the Nova Scotia native wants to claim the scoring crown.
Morrison, tied for second spot overall in scoring in the Newfoundland Senior Hockey League with 24 points on eight goals and 14 assists, didn’t make the road trip to Clarenville last weekend because he was recuperating from a lower-body injury sustained against the Gander Flyers earlier this month.
Andre Gill of the Grand Falls-Windsor Cataracts, with 17 goals in 17 games, is the scoring leader with 27 points.
Morrison’s two linemates — Justin Barbour and former National Hockey League enforcer Darren Langdon — are having impressive offensive seasons for the Royals and among the top 10 scoring leaders heading down the stretch.
Barbour is tied with Morrison with identical numbers (8G, 16A) in the scoring race, while Langdon, with seven goals and 14 helpers, is tied for sixth spot overall with four other players.
Royals veteran Mark Robinson, still one of the best shooters in the senior ranks, is tied for fourth place in offensive prowess with Luke Gallant of the Grand Falls-Windsor Cataracts — who happens to be the highest-scoring rearguard in his rookie campaign.
Robinson has potted 13 goals and collected nine assists in only 15 games, pretty impressive given a majority of players around the league are 10 years younger than him. Gallant has amassed eight goals and 14 assists in his rookie campaign.
Matt Bragg of the Clarenville Caribous (9G, 12A), Chad Locke of the Gander Flyers (8G, 13A), Tyler Whitehead of the Gander Flyers (7-14) and Brandon Nicholas of the Grand Falls-Windsor Cataracts round out the top 10 most offensive-minded players heading into weekend action.
The Gander Flyers, who picked up a huge point in a shootout loss to the Cataracts Sunday to move into sole possession of the fourth and final playoff spot, will host the second-seeded Clarenville Caribous (9-6-2) in a two-game set this weekend (Saturday 7:30 p.m. and Sunday 1:30 p.m.) at the Gander Community Centre.
Meanwhile, the Eastlink CeeBee Stars, with three games in hand, trail the Flyers by a single point heading into a two-game homestand against the third-place Western Royals (8-10) this weekend at S. W. Moores Memorial Stadium in Harbour Grace.
The Cataracts clinched first place overall with its shootout win over the Flyers Sunday so the only thing to be decided is who will earn fourth spot and provide opposition in the semifinal round.
The Caribous, barring a serious meltdown in the organization, have a lock on second spot with a four-point lead and one game in hand.
That could change if the Western Royals get on a roll with four straight games against the cellar-dwelling CeeBee Stars on the horizon. The two teams will clash in Harbour Grace this weekend, and then seven days later the Hodder Memorial Recreation Complex in Deer Lake is the stage.
The Royals hold a six-point lead over the CeeBee Stars and are five points ahead of the Flyers so .500 hockey over last six games will be the easiest way to guarantee third place is locked in to ensure a first-round matchup with the Clarenville Caribous.