DEER LAKE While there is no fear of missing the playoffs because all hands advance regardless of records, earning extra home games is certainly high on the priority list heading down the stretch drive.
The Western Royals have seven games left to close the gap between the Grand Falls-Windsor Cataracts in an effort to be the top seed in the West. The Cataracts, first overall in the six-team two-division provincial senior hockey league with 24 points on a record of 12 wins and four defeats, hold a four-point advantage over the Royals, who sit in third spot overall and second in the West with a 9-6-2 mark.
The Royals will have to defeat a couple of teams in the East Division to topple the Cataracts. The Royals battle the Eastlink CeeBee Stars this weekend in a two-game series in Harbour Grace and the following weekend the boys from the west hit the road for a two-game showdown with the cellar-dwelling West Divisionâ€™s Gander Flyers at the Gander Community Centre. The Royals and Flyers also have a game to make up after a winter storm cancelled the first game of a two-game series two weeks ago in Deer Lake. It is expected that the Royals will host the Flyers for a Friday night contest before heading to Gander to play the other two games.
The Royals, fresh off a sweep of the Cataracts at the Hodder Memorial Recreation Complex, will close out the regular season with a showdown against Eastern Division hopeful Mount Pearl H J Bartlett Electric Blades Jan. 31- and Feb. 1 in Deer Lake.
Cataracts import Rob Hennigar, despite being limited to a single assist in the series against the Royals, still leads the provincial scoring race with 30 points on four goals and 26 helpers.
However, there appears to be a youngster poised to give him a run for his money as Jordan Escott of the CeeBee Stars continues to shine and has taken over second spot with nine goals and 19 assists in 16 games.
Defending scoring champion Andre Gill of the Cataracts slipped back into a three-way tie for third spot with 23 points, but he looks to be one of a few players with a chance at reaching the 20-goal mark as he forges ahead on a goal-a-game pace with 16 in 16 games.
Michael Hynes and Justin Barbour, two of the key cogs all season for the Royals, have amassed 23 points each for a share of third place with Gill.
Hynes, one of the premiere two-way players in the game, has 11 goals and 12 helpers in 17 games, while Barbour has 10 goals on the season.