CeeBee Stars re­flect on re­turn to AESHL

The Compass - - FRONT PAGE - BY NI­CHOLAS MERCER nmercer@cbn­com­pass.ca

The Har­bour Grace Ocean En­ter­prises CeeBee Stars are fin­ished with their first sea­son back in the Avalon East Se­nior Hockey League. The team didn’t make the play­offs af­ter post­ing just three wins on the year, how­ever, of­fi­cials with the team are en­cour­aged by the pos­i­tive feel­ing around the club head­ing into next sea­son.

It was not the sea­son that any mem­bers of this new CeeBee Stars or­ga­ni­za­tion wanted.

Book­ended by lop­sided loses to the North­east Ea­gles and the South­ern Shore Break­ers, the CeeBees fin­ished their re­turn to the Avalon East Se­nior Hockey League at the bot­tom of the stand­ings in the five-team league.

Through 24 games, the team man­aged just three vic­to­ries and fin­ished 13 points be­hind the fourth place Bell Is­land Blues.

De­spite this, there is an un­bri­dled sense of op­ti­mism around the team as it moves into its first off-sea­son as a mem­ber of the AESHL.

“This year was a huge year for us ex­pe­ri­ence wise,” said pres­i­dent Mark Reynolds. “We’re in a great po­si­tion mov­ing for­ward. The league is po­si­tioned re­ally well. “We like where we stand.” The ar­du­ous task of tal­ent ac­qui­si­tion be­gan to turn in the team’s favour as the sea­son wound down. The CeeBees were able to get for­mer stal­warts Matthew French, Paul Brown and Chris Pet­ten to pull a jersey over their heads.

They joined the likes of for­mer pro Robert Slaney, An­drew Fen­wick, Kenny King and Mark Roe­bothan to give the CeeBees some tal­ent.

In the last draft of the sea­son, they added cur­rent Euro­pean pro de­fence­man and St. John’s na­tive Sam Roberts to their ros­ter. All in­di­ca­tions are he will to re­turn home next sea­son and has pledged his ser­vices to the team.

“We’re just try­ing to keep putting pieces in place for next sea­son,” said Reynolds.

An­swer­ing the bell

While it wasn’t the pret­ti­est sea­son in Har­bour Grace, Reynolds cred­ited the play­ers for an­swer­ing the bell ev­ery night and giv­ing the fans an ex­cit­ing game of hockey.

The scores weren’t close at times, but the CeeBees were in plenty of games un­til the wheels came off in one way or an­other. More of­ten than not, the fi­nal scores were lop­sided but not en­tirely in­dica­tive of the game be­ing played on the ice.

“They were valu­able to us all sea­son,” said Reynolds. “All of the guys on the front lines and even the coach­ing staff, they’re there game in and game out up the shore and in St. John’s. There were some lop­sided games and for th­ese guys to hang in there and do what they did all year, we’re re­ally thank­ful to have had them.”

“I have to take my hat off to the guys who came out and played,” added CeeBees’ bench boss Ian Moores. “It can be dif­fi­cult to go to the rink when you’re los­ing but that’s part of it. We did make strides and we did get stronger as the sea­son went on.”

Build­ing a vol­un­teer base

Any or­ga­ni­za­tion like the CeeBees needs a strong vol­un­teer base to work the ticket ta­bles and raise funds for the up­com­ing sea­son. At­tract­ing new vol­un­teers was a prob­lem for past CeeBees teams, but this year’s ver­sion was able to get new faces mixed in with the old.

“We were able to main­tain the peo­ple that we had,” said Reynolds. “We were also able to grow our vol­un­teer base and we’re still look­ing for more.

“I didn’t re­al­ize how im­por­tant they were to what we were do­ing.”

The team fig­ures they reg­u­larly saw 150-200 fans stroll through the gates on game day, and they want to con­tinue to build on those num­bers mov­ing for­ward.

De­spite the club be­gin­ning its off­sea­son pre­ma­turely, those in­volved are look­ing at the sil­ver lin­ing. The goal was the post sea­son, but the team is po­si­tioned well for next sea­son. They are sure to have some picks at the top of the draft in the fall and with whis­pers that the Cen­tral West Se­nior Hockey League may fold, there may be an op­por­tu­nity to scoop up even more valu­able tal­ent.

Should that hap­pen, there are guys like Brett Shute, Keith De­laney and Ryan De­laney who could po­ten­tially be ac­quired. Even a player like Clarenville’s An­drew Smith, who played his ju­nior hockey in Bay Roberts, may be an ideal fit in Har­bour Grace.

There is also a high pro­file group grad­u­at­ing from the ju­nior ranks that can help the team come Oc­to­ber.

“I re­ally wanted to make the play­offs, but there is some good com­ing out of the bad,” said Reynolds.

“I re­ally wanted to make the play­offs, but there is some good com­ing out of the bad.” Mark Reynolds

NI­CHOLAS MERCER/THE COM­PASS

CeeBee Stars for­ward An­drew Fen­wick (cen­tre) at­tacks the North­east Ea­gles de­fence dur­ing Avalon East se­nior hockey ac­tion at the S.W. Moores Me­mo­rial Sta­dium on Jan. 16. CeeBees’ cen­tre Tom Snow is also shown here.

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