CORNER BROOK Western Royals coach Ed Kearsey believes his team can give anybody a good game of hockey if they can just stick to a game plan.
Kearsey believes his charges can find success if they make a commitment to playing a grinding style of hockey with all hands making an effort to be better in all facets of the game.
He sees areas where every player can be better and he hopes it all starts to mesh real soon as the playoff round draws near with only a handful of games left in the regular season.
A solid effort against the Eastlink CeeBee Stars in a two-game set this weekend at S. W. Moores Memorial Stadium in Harbour Grace is where he hopes to see it all come together.
The CeeBees trail the Gander Flyers by a single point in the battle for the fourth and final playoff berth so the Harbour Grace squad will be expected to play some desperate hockey down the stretch.
Kearsey knows the secret to beating the CeeBees. He just needs his players to follow through with his strategy.
“We got to get pucks deep in the other team’s zone and keep the pressure on their defence,” Kearsey said. “We’re going to have to play bump and grind hockey.”
The Royals will welcome import sniper Brett Morrison back to the lineup so he will be reunited with Justin Barbour and Darren Langdon to form the team’s most explosive trio.
Morrison, tied for third in scoring and Barbour, who is in second spot and one point behind scoring leader Andre Gill of the Cats, have been the most consistent producers, but coach Kearsey insists the team needs more scoring punch out of the Ryan Sparling line that features Chad Earle and Ryan Penney flanked on the wings. Kearsey likes how the trio have worked hard, but he wants them to take it to the next level to take some of the pressure off Morrison and company.
“We got to have more scoring out of this line. They’ ve been getting their chances,” he said.
Of course, while he wants to see scoring spread throughout the lineup, he has been pleased with the production of the Mark Robinson/Scott Doody/Cory Blackmore line that has been putting up points in bunches after being put together two weeks ago.
On the defensive side of the equation, he knows the defence corps has been struggling with guys coming and going out of the lineup, so he hopes they continue to work hard and play a simple game behind the blue-line. He not only wants the defence to tighten up to keep the scoring chances down; he wants the forwards to come back deeper to help out, particularly in the later stages of a game.
He also feels some players need to work on their physical conditioning because he sees them labour in the third period. He believes players have been getting tired and that’s when they start running around and making mistakes.
“We’re still hurting a little bit on conditioning, and that’s why we got to play it simple in our own zone,” he said. “Defence got to move the puck up and if there’s any pressure you got to move it out of the zone high off the glass.”
Ashley Coles and Matt Boland will be back in the lineup this weekend to eat up minutes on the defence corps, and Jake Easton is expected to be back in uniform after missing a couple of games with a nagging injury.
Andrew Smith is a healthy scratch and won’t be making the road trip to Harbour Grace. Mark Tobin, a player who the Royals have been waiting all year to get on track but has struggled with a handful of points, is expected to dress for tonight’s showdown slated for 7:30 p.m. at the S. W. Moores Memorial Stadium.