DEER LAKE Fans of the Western Royals have reason to be optimistic at the midway mark of the provincial senior hockey league season.
The Royals head into the Christmas break with a hold on second place overall in the Newfoundland Senior Hockey League game with a dozen games in the books in the 24-game regular season schedule.
The Royals boast a record of seven wins, three regulation losses and two overtime losses for 16 points, four behind the league-leading and East-division rival Grand Falls-Windsor Cataracts.
Royals forward Darren Langdon said depth has certainly been a factor in the team‚Äôs success in the first half of the campaign.
‚ÄúWe got four pretty solid lines and everybody is contributing so it‚Äôs good to have an excess of players who are playing good and we definitely have that this year,‚ÄĚ he said.
Fans on the west coast have been yearning for a winning team for a couple of seasons. The Royals have always made a push in the playoffs, but always came up short in the quest to turn things around and get the fans back.
The key piece to building a defence-first mentality within the group was bringing import goalie Bryan Gillis back into the fold.
Offence has been a concern for the Royals in past years, but this season there appears to be more balance with all four lines making contributions to the scoresheet, with the top line of Justin Barbour, Michael Hynes and Langdon piling up the numbers.
Matthew Thomey has made big strides to find his way to give the Royals a dangerous second line with Chris Peach and Brian Barker, while the trio of Scott Doody, Mathieu Berube and Andrew Smith have been consistent with points piling up among them in the first half.
The Royals can change the landscape of the league with a big road trip to Clarenville. The Royals clash with the Caribous on Friday 8 p.m. and Saturday 7:30 p.m.
The final weekend of hockey will also see the other four teams trying to close out 2013 on a positive note.
The Gander Flyers and Grand Falls-Windsor Cataracts will play a home-and-home series with the Flyers, while the Eastlink CeeBee Stars and Mount Pearl HJ‚ÄąBartlett Electric Blades will play a home-and-home series with the Gander Community Centre.
By the numbers
Royals scoring at the midway mark (Goals-Assists)
1. Justin Barbour 5-12 17 points
1. Michael Hynes 9-8 17
3, Parker Deighan 2-13 15
4. Darren Langdon 6-5 11
5. Zack Firlotte 0-10 10
6. Scott Doody 6-4 10
7. Andrew Smith 1-8 9
8. Stephen Simms 2-7 9
9. Mathieu Berube 5-3 8
10. Matthew Thomey 5-3 8
11. Brian Barker 3-5 8
12. Chris Peach 3-4 7
13. Ryan‚ÄąPenney 3-3 6
14. Adam Guy 0-3 3
15. Steve North 0-2 2
16. Brad Woods 0-2 2
17. Mark Robinson 1-0 1
18. Dion Brake 0-0 0
19. Josh White 0-0 0
20. Nathan Saunders 0-0 0
21. Colin Coates 0-0 0
Newfoundland Senior Hockey League
standings at the midway mark of the seasion (Wins-losses-ties)
Grand Falls-Windsor 10-2-0 25 points
Western Royals 7-3-2 16
Clarenville Caribous 6-3-3 15
Mount Pearl Blades 6-6-0 12
Gander Flyers 3-6-3 9
Eastlink CeeBee Stars 4-8-0 8