The Straight Shore Beothics seem to be hitting its stride late in the Central Newfoundland Hockey League season.
After defeating the league-leading Gander Flyers 6-3 Jan. 8 at home in the Beothic Arena in New-Wes-Valley, the Beothics used a four-goal first period to get within two points of the Flyers in the standings with an 8-5 win Jan. 14 at the Gander Community Centre.
Troy Stratton recorded a hat trick in the game for the Beothics, while his brother Cory collected a game-high four assists.
Kris Blackmore had a three-point night going (two goals, one assist), but left the game in the second with a knee injury after colliding with Flyers' defenceman Kevin Dickey.
Dickey was one of three former players to dress for the Flyers Saturday night because of a rash of injuries to current players. Also in the lineup were Todd Baldwin and Vic Goodyear.
The incident surrounding Blackmore's injury was one of many plays that resulted in after-the-whistle skirmishes.
In a game that witnessed only 11 penalties, two were 10-minute misconducts, and three were roughing calls.
According to Beothics' assistant coach Les Kean, the physical play can be attributed to the same two teams playing each other over the past three games.
However, Blackmore's injury has him seriously hoping nobody is out to purposely hurt anybody else.
"He's bandaged up," said Kean of Blackmore. "He's one of our better players, and I don't want to think somebody did that to him deliberately.
"It's part of the game," added Kean about the physical play. "There are a lot of young players out there, and some nights there are points to be proven. We also had a back-to-back series against Gander, and some of the emotion is carried over into the next rink as well. There's only four teams in the league, so sometimes guys have each others' number, and it carries on."
The Beothics will await word on the severity of Blackmore's injury, but if there ever was a good time for a Beothics player to recover from an injury, it's now. The team is off this weekend and will finish the regular season with a pair of home games against the Lewisporte Seahawks, Jan. 28-29.
The team is only two points behind the Flyers, and Kean likes how his team is playing right now.
"There are four even teams in this league and anybody can beat anybody on any given night. The parody in the league is like the NHL - I'm not comparing this league to the NHL - but it's similar in that you don't know who's going to beat who on any given night," said Kean. "That's how it's going to continue to be heading into the playoffs, which means there should be good hockey ahead."
Matt Strickland led the way for the Flyers Saturday night with a hat trick, while Mike Greening added a pair of goals. On a side note, three of the new-former Flyers - Dickey, Baldwin and Goodyear - each recorded assists.
Time will tell if either player suits up for the Flyers again this season, but two things are for sure - playoff hockey is going to be intense, and the Beothics fan base is ready for another year of post-season hockey.
"Our fan base is pretty supportive. If we went to Ottawa to play they would follow us (laughs)," said Kean. "I think it's going to be a great playoffs, and this game tonight kind of indicated what we're going to see. There's going to be something on the line, so things could get chippier. All four teams make the playoffs, so you can expect all four teams to take their play to the next level when playoffs begin."
The Flyers will host the Seahawks Saturday night at the Gander Community Centre, and will finish its season in Twillingate for a pair of games, Jan. 27-28.