Their plan is to continue this hockey season through to the playoffs by doing as they have always done - taking things one game at a time.
Last season saw the Port aux Basques Mariners fall in the first round to eventual West Coast Senior Hockey League (WCSHL) champs the Deer Lake Red Wings.
This year the team is coming closer to a title; ready to square off on March 8 against rival Corner Brook Royals for league championship.
Mariners spokesman Steve Osmond indicates this season has seen the team gain strength.
“With the team we had on paper, we knew we had a strong group. We improved our strength, size and speed, which are three things we needed to get better. We never really set any expectations as you can never plan for injuries, work commitments and family obligations each player faces but we knew we had a strong group.”
Right winger Greg Edgar has been with the Mariners since the WCSHL was resurrected three years ago. Although he lives in Corner Brook, the Middle Arm native was keen to play with the Mariners from the start.
“I started playing with the Mariners in the 2010-2011 season – that was junior hockey. I play with the (senior) Mariners because of my history with the team and the good friendships that my family and I have with a lot of the people out there,” says Edgar, who also played with junior teams in Stephenville, Corner Brook and Deer Lake. “The atmosphere at the Bruce II was what drew me to play there at first.”
Edgar claims he has never really gotten nervous before a game and doesn’t expect that to change, even though this will be his first senior league post-season play.
“I’m excited to get it started now! It should be a skilled, hard-hitting series and I’m anxious to get it started,” says Edgar.
Osmond adds the veteran Mariners are prepared to overcome any butterflies should they manifest.
“There is always nervousness and excitement when it comes to games like this. It’s the reason most of the guys play,” he said.
Osmond says the Mariners have developed a rivalry with the Royals this season, a result of playing each other so often since Deer Lake didn’t ice a team for the 2018-2019 season; this year’s league has only three teams.
“The Royals are a formidable opponent. They come at you with speed and they utilize any open ice given to them. We gotta concentrate on taking away their time and space, keeping them to the outside and limit their second chance opportunities,” says Lomond.
Edgar agrees the focus must remain simple.
“We gotta go into any playoff series with the same mindset – to take it one game at a time and try not to get too involved in the highs and lows of the series. We gotta be ready to go right off the opening faceoff Friday night and take advantage of our home ice,” says the right winger. “The fans out there are the best in the league. That makes it special to play every night.”
The Mariners’ love affair with its diehard fanbase continues to play an important role, adds Osmond.
“Our fans have always been passionate and supportive of the Mariners. They are intertwined in our town and the fans love them.
“I know for some of the staff and players, going to the gas station takes a little longer during Mariners season as they run into fans everywhere they go; people love picking their brains and getting their opinions and hearing about the latest league rumour or the newest signing. It’s really good to see and be a part of,” says Osmond. “I think we are evenly matched going into the finals and the guys are ready to go, just as I’m sure our fans are ready to go too. It should be a great series.”
Although the Royals technically have home ice advantage, due to a scheduling conflict the first game of the WCSHL championship will kick off this Friday night at the Bruce II Sports Centre in Port aux Basques. The scene shifts to Corner Brook for the second game of the series on Saturday.