CORNER BROOK It appears Bryan Gillis is a keeper for the Western Royals.
The 24-year-old Nova Scotia puckstopper was signed to an import card last month after Royals president Ross Coates decided to bring in a goaltender to help turn the team around.
The move seemed to be inevitable as the Royals slipped in the standings as neither Corner Brook native Brad Dyke or newcomer Doug Jewer of St. John’s stepped up to lay claim to the No. 1 job.
Gillis has been impressive in the crease, despite only one win in four-straight starts since being acquired. He lost three games in a row (two two-goal losses and a one-goal loss) before leading the Royals to a 6-4 victory against the Gander Flyers last weekend in a game where he made 52 saves and was clearly the Royals best player.
He has a 4.77 Goals Against Average and an .894 save percentage while allowing 19 goals in four games.
Coates likes what he sees in his new puckstopper.
“We have every intention of keeping Bryan around,” Coates said Wednesday. “He’s a great goaltender and he gives us a chance to win games. On Sunday (against the Flyers), he can pretty much take credit for winning the game.”
Ed Kearsey got his first win as the new head coach of the Royals in Sunday’s triumph over the Flyers. Other than being victim of a bad bounce from 35 feet out in giving up the game’s first goal in 10 seconds, coach Kearsey thought his goalie was the difference in the hockey game.
“If he continues to play like he did last week, he is going to make a big difference for us in the league standings,” Kearsey said. “He can win a game for you by himself.”
Coates sees Gillis as a big key in the team becoming better in their own end of the rink, but he hopes his goalie can improve on the number of goals allowed in a game.
“We’d like to get our goals against down around three a game,” Coates said. “If we can get our goals against down to three a game then we can win our fair share of games because we’re quite capable of scoring four-to-five a game, which we have shown I think pretty much all year.”
The Royals still have Dyke and Jewer on the roster, but Jewer hasn’t been brought in from St. John’s since Gillis became the new masked man. Dyke has been taking care of the back-up duties and will continue to be the No. 2 guy. Coates wasn’t prepared to take on he financial cost of bringing in a goalie to serve as back-up when Dyke lives in the city.
Coates is hoping to improve his team via the trade route with Jewer being used as the bait. He wants to entertain a transaction that will help the team shore up its defensive game, but he is also interested in any player he feels offers promise for the future.
“We’ve had interest from a couple of teams on Doug Jewer,” he said.
The Royals enter the Christmas break with a 6-8 record and sole possession of third place in the five-team provincial league.
Only the top four teams will earn a berth in the playoff round and that appears to be up for grabs with the Eastlink CeeBee Stars and expansion Gander Flyers deadlocked for the final spot with 10 points apiece.
The Royals will need Gillis to stand tall as the gap between third and the cellar is a mere two points.
Gillis will probably have to steal a game or two down the stretch. The Royals are confident he can get the job done.