CeeBees hard to han­dle

Bell Is­land team faces daunt­ing task in play­offs

The Compass - - PORTHTE - BY ANDREW ROBIN­SON

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.

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