Give CeeBees a chance
CeeBee Stars coach says fans put too much pressure on team
The Concpetion Bay North CeeBee Stars are getting hot at the right time with just under half of the regular season left to play, and coach Ian Moores seems to think fans should be more patient with the team.
“ We’ve got a lot of players who are playing well, and I know some guys are feeling pressure from fans, which is unfair, I think.”
After losing a pair of weekend games towards the end of November, Moores says fans were too quick to throw the team under the bus, including the coaching staff of Moores and assistants Eddie Bartett and Peter George.
“ There’s some players as well that are taking some heat for not producing offensively, which is unfair, because it’s early in the regular season, and guys are still getting used to their teammates. It’s not something where you throw together a bunch of players, drop the puck, and a bunch of players score at will.”
But with the recent winning streak put together by the team, Moores says fans are coming around to recognizing this CeeBees team can win.
The team is getting the kind of results it has been hoping for since the start of the season, when many predicted the CeeBee Stars’ talent-laden roster might run away with the Avalon East Senior Hockey League title.
The team has won four straight games in the month of December to improve its overall record to 9-4. Two of those wins came against the Mount Pearl Blades, who now lead the CeeBee Stars by only three points in league standings, with 11 games remaining on the CeeBees’ schedule.
The Blades won the first three meetings of the year, but the CeeBees seem to have found the right formula for defeating the Mount Pearl club.
“I think it’s just been a matter of everybody being able to gel together by practicing, and we definitely have tried some different line combinations since the start of the season, and it seems like what we’re using right now seems to be working,“ says Moores.
Last season’s Herder finalists have certainly made some tweaks to their line-up, obtaining former Southern Shore Breaker Ray Dalton, past-CeeBees Keith and Ryan Delaney, and former pro defenceman Brandon Roach, amongst others.
Moores says while the team from last year may have had a better record at the Christmas break, he says it was considered an underdog group.
“ This team wasn’t considered an underdog in the league from the start of the season until Christmas. I think there’s always going to be pressure on the CeeBee Stars, because since senior hockey started in its heyday, the fans have always been spoiled by having very good, competitive teams, and they expect to win. It doesn’t matter that we have a different team this year — the pressure is pretty much always there.”
Leading the way this year for the team’s offense has been the duo of Dalton and captain Matthew Thomey, who are tied for second in league scoring with 21 points each.
“I believe Ray Dalton was the best player the Southern Shore Breakers had last year,” says Moores, who obtained Dalton in a dispersal draft shortly after the Breakers folded. “All he’s done is picked-up from where he left off last year, and he stepped in to our team and continued to produce. That’s been no surprise to me, and I’d imagine it’s no surprise to anybody around the senior hockey circles in the province.”
As for Thomey, Moores says his captain is also continuing his great play from last season, when Thomey led the league in scoring.
“He’s in the upper echelon in senior hockey for the province, and we’re lucky to have (Thomey and Dalton) producing offensively.”
The team has also benefited in recent weeks from the return of Chris Sparkes, who missed four games with an injury. He sits third in team scoring with 16 points in nine games.
“He hasn’t missed a beat,” says Moores. “He’s still the same player, and nothing has changed. We’ll look for him to continue to contribute offensively down the stretch.”
If the team has one wishlist item remaining, it’s on defence, where the team would like to fill the void created by the departure of Matthew French. The CeeBee Stars attempted to secure import player Jeff Caron through the second league draft earlier this month, but failed to do so after the player was ruled ineligible by the league executive.
To make matters worse, defenceman Chad Parsons recently suffered an upper body injury. He did not play in the CeeBees’ last game before the break, and with Chad Fisher also out of the line-up because of work commitments, the team was forced to dress four defencemen, with forwards Mike Druken and Shane Gamberg also patrolling the blueline.
Mike Dyke received a game misconduct early in the second period, presenting further challenges for the CeeBees.
“ We’re definitely interested in another defenceman, and we’re pursuing whatever avenues that we can,” says Moores, who adds there is no timetable on Parsons’ return to the line-up.
As for what needs to happen for the CeeBee Stars’ success to continue in 2011, Moores says players need to stay healthy and continue to focus on playing a full 60 minutes of hockey every game.
“It’ll start from our goaltending outwards,” he says. “ We’re definitely emphasizing defence first. We know we have the offence, and I think the keys will be to practice hard and continue to gel together.”
The CeeBee Stars are scheduled to play their first game of the New Year against the Bell Island Blues on Jan. 7 at S.W. Moores Memorial Stadium in Harbour Grace.
Ryan Delaney slips between a pair of Mount Pearl Blades defenders to attempt a shot on Roger Kennedy during Avalon East Senior Hockey League action on Dec. 11. Conception Bay North CeeBee Stars captain Matthew Thomey watches the play develop from the side of the crease.