De­fen­sive de­pend­abil­ity bol­sters Ceebees

The Compass - - PORTHTE - BY NI­CHOLAS MERCER

Leg­endary Univer­sity of Alabama foot­ball coach Paul ‘Bear’ Bryant Jr. once said, “of­fence sells tick­ets, de­fence wins cham­pi­onships.”

The Con­cep­tion Bay North Cee­Bee Stars (6-10-2-14) are be­gin­ning to show that the idea be­hind the quote has mer­its.

Head­ing into this past week­end’s se­ries with the Mount Pearl Blades, the team was al­low­ing a league-low av­er­age of 2.8 goals per game in the sec­ond half of the New­found­land Se­nior Hockey League sea­son.

“De­fence is im­por­tant to us,” said head coach Corey Crocker. “We stress it be­fore ev­ery game, on the bench and af­ter the game. We are al­ways talk­ing de­fence.”

The team’s com­mit­ment to de­fence is what has al­lowed it to claw its way out of the base­ment of the NSHL and into the play­off picture.

“It’s a team ef­fort on de­fence,” he said.

That ef­fort starts, strangely enough, in the other team’s end for the Ceebees, ac­cord­ing to Crocker.

“The for­wards have been great at keep­ing the puck down low and hold­ing the team in and not com­mit­ting turnovers,” he said. “It all starts in the of­fen­sive zone.”

Crocker added that when the other team has been able to get out of their own zone his for­wards and de­fence­man “have been great at forc­ing them to dump the puck in.”

This al­lows for ei­ther start­ing goal­tender Doug Jewer or backup Fred­die Di­a­mond to get out of their net and move the puck to a de­fence­man in or­der to kick­start the CeeBees’ at­tack once again.

“Our de­fence­man has time to pick up the puck, look up and make the pass,” said Crocker. “When there is pres­sure, it’s harder to do that.”

Mak­ing work easy

Any­time a coach comes in half­way through the sea­son it can be a tough tran­si­tion, but Crocker said he hasn’t had any tran­si­tional prob­lems.

“I’m very for­tu­nate to have great lead­ers like Matthew Thomey, Don­nie Gosse, Keith De­laney and Matthew French,” he said. “The play­ers want to win.”

Although Crocker was fa­mil­iar with the ma­jor­ity of the play­ers on the team, the veteran pres­ence in the dress­ing room has been a big help.

Crocker doesn’t think the CeeBees have reached their full po­ten­tial just yet. They’re still build­ing to­wards the play­offs, and the pos­i­tive signs be­ing shown through the first part of the sec­ond half are en­cour­ag­ing.

“This team has so a lot more to give,” Crocker said prior to his team’s home- and- home se­ries against Mount Pearl this past week­end ( re­sults were un­avail­able prior to dead­line).

All of the tur­moil and in­con­sis­tency that plagued the Ceebees prior to the coach­ing switch can be all washed away should the team man­age to land in the play­offs.

“I ex­pect it to be play­off hockey,” said Crocker of the kind of hockey he ex­pects to see.

The coach said his guys rec­og­nize how im­por­tant these games are.

Head­ing into last week­end, the Ceebees sat in fourth place with 14 points, one point ahead of the last place Blades, who had 13 points.

The Ceebees are in ac­tion again this week­end with a game Feb. 17 (8 p. m. start) at home against the Mount Pearl Blades. The Corner Brook visit on Sun­day, Feb. 18 (7:30 p.m. start).

Ceebees’ head coach Corey Crocker and as­sis­tant coach Peter Ge­orge (fore­ground) look on from the bench dur­ing a re­cent home game in Har­bour Grace.

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