Defensive dependability bolsters Ceebees
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.