CeeBees hard to handle
Bell Island team faces daunting task in playoffs
Bell Island Blues defenceman Steve Gosse is blunt when it comes to assessing his team’s chances of winning against the Avalon East Senior Hockey League’s No. 1 seed in the first round of the playoffs.
“Obviously, it’s no surprise what’s going to happen coming in,” says Gosse, who is in his first year with the Blues after playing junior hockey on Bell Island from 1996 to 1999.
It’s apt to call the Blues’ 2010-11 season disheartening. In 22 games, the team could only muster a single victory, and forfeited two other games to post the worst record in regular season play. In those 22 games, the team was outscored 169-69. Seven of those were against the Conception Bay North CeeBee Stars, who beat Bell Island in all seven by a combined score of 57-18.
For any follower of Avalon East action this year, it seems a forgone conclusion that the CeeBees will crush the Blues in four unexciting games, the first two of which were scheduled to be played this past weekend. But Gosse is hopeful his team will battle hard.
“ They’re the powerhouse of the league, and I think all the pressure is on them. We’re going to take the approach of taking it periodby-period, shift-by-shift, and just work hard and see how it turns out.”
David Brazil, who won for the Progressive Conservatives in the Conception Bay East byelection last fall, says his team needs to play a brand of hockey similar to his party’s namesake.
“ What we’ve noticed in the last six games is we’ve improved our game dramatically based around being more conservative, particularly in our own zone.”
To do so, he says the Blues have focused on taking away shooting and passing lanes and sticking with opposing players to keep them from having room to skate. There are even some numbers that show this strategy is working. In the Jan. 15 game between Bell Island and the Mount Pearl Blades, the Blades outshot the home team by an 80-30 margin. In the final regular season game between the two clubs, that margin was reduced to 43-38 in favour of Mount Pearl.
“ I predict it will be much more entertaining for people to watch than (games) have been up to this point,” says Brazil.
Gosse says the Blues’ defining characteristic is grit, and the group works hard as a unit and takes pride in playing the game of hockey. But as for facing the CeeBees, he admits his team cannot match its opponent’s collective skill on a man-to-man basis.
“ We have total respect for those guys and what they have done in their history as well,” he says of the CeeBees, who last won the Herder Memorial Trophy two years ago.
“ The CeeBees have an unlimited barrage of talent when it comes to their ability to play offensively, defensively, and physically,” adds Brazil. Much of that would have to do with the disparities between the budgets of teams like the Blues and the CeeBee Stars.
“ Some of these teams spend in a month what we’ll spend for the whole season,” says Brazil. “ It’s a reality of senior hockey with sponsorship, budgets, fan attendance, and the ability to attract various players — it dictates how much money you need, and that dictates how much money you have to play with.”
Gosse, who won the Herder last season playing for the Clarenville Caribous, knows fans of the league would have hoped to see a stronger team from Bell Island this season to increase overall competitiveness. The neverending losses were hard on the team’s psyche, says Gosse.
“Morale is going to be down, but come playoff time, that 1-and-21 doesn’t mean anything. The CeeBees record doesn’t mean anything as well, so we’re going to start with a clean slate, work hard, and give 110 per cent. Whatever happens, happens.”
Looking ahead to next season, Brazil says there will remain a team from Bell Island, though it may play some home games elsewhere to help increase its regional fan base. He says there are players who have expressed interest in joining the team for 2011-12, and to do so will involve finishing the year on a high note and working over the summer to make the team a more attractive destination.