CeeBee Stars out to quick start

The Compass - - SPORTS - BY NI­CHOLAS MERCER TC ME­DIA nmercer@cb­n­com­pass.ca

The 2014-2015 ver­sion of the HGOE CeeBee Stars never seemed to get out of the starter’s block.

They dropped their first nine de­ci­sions re­turn­ing to the Avalon East Se­nior Hockey League and only recorded three wins for the year.

They got outscored and out­played as first place was noth­ing but a mi­rage on the hori­zon.

Fast for­ward to this year and the CeeBees have put that ter­ri­ble start be­hind them.

Head­ing into last week­end’s ac­tion, the team sat in first place of the five-team AESHL with three wins and only one loss. That loss came via a shootout with the Bell Is­land Blues where the CeeBees still sal­vaged a sin­gle point.

Where last sea­son it took them 13 games to reach three wins, they’ve matched that to­tal in just four.

When con­tacted by The Com­pass, of­fi­cials with the team point to a change in feel­ing around the team with the turn­around in the stand­ings.

“This year, it’s to­tally dif­fer­ent,” said coach Ian Moores. “Just the vibe and your way of think­ing when you’re go­ing to the rink and you have a le­git­i­mate shot to win ev­ery game.”

Much of that can be at­trib­uted to the new per­son­nel the CeeBees have brought in over the off­sea­son. They’ve added a former pro, stand­out ju­nior league play­ers and other guys with pro­vin­cial se­nior hockey ex­pe­ri­ence to the lineup.

There are no less than eight new faces with the team who were not around the club last sea­son.

“I think the chem­istry on the team, right now, is top notch,” said Moores. “There’s no­body in the dress­ing room that thinks they’re bet­ter than any­body else. When you can look at a guy like Sam Roberts, who just fin­ished play­ing pro hockey, and he’s in the dress­ing room want­ing to be like ev­ery­body else and win.

“He’s out there block­ing shots and putting ev­ery­thing on the line … Over­all, we’ve got a good mix.”

Shoring things up

While the CeeBees are sit­ting at the top of the league, there are still places where they can get bet­ter.

Moores said he’d like to see his team get bet­ter de­fen­sively mov­ing for­ward. Even with three wins in four games, the team has given up a to­tal of 161 shots, or just over 40 a game.

Now, the team is av­er­ag­ing some­where in the area of 38 shots it­self, but that ar­gu­ment doesn’t hold wa­ter when task­ing your goal­tender with a heavy work­load ev­ery night.

De­spite hav­ing a stand­out goal­tender like A.J. Whif­fen, 40 shots a game is too much to be giv­ing up on a nightly ba­sis.

“It’s very early (in the sea­son), there are go­ing to be things we have to work on and I think A.J. Whif­fen has had to be our best player ev­ery night,” said Moores. “If we can cut down on the other team’s chances and shots would be great.

“That starts in our own zone de­fen­sively.”

Fan at­ten­dance

At­ten­dance was abysmal for the fi­nal sea­son at the S.W. Moores Me­mo­rial Sta­dium in Har­bour Grace. The team had a hor­ri­ble show­ing on the ice and it re­flected in the stands.

Aside from the reg­u­lar CeeBee diehards, new faces around the rink were hard to find and it left a build­ing with great char­ac­ter lack­ing.

That’s flipped at the Danny Cleary Com­mu­nity Cen­tre, at least in the early go­ing. The home opener on Oct. 22 was close to sold out as fans were treated to an en­ter­tain­ing game.

That con­tin­ued in the sec­ond week­end as again the build­ing was close to full as the new-look CeeBees con­tin­ued to pique their in­ter­est.

“The ex­cite­ment was build­ing all sum­mer I be­lieve, “said Moores. “Es­pe­cially with the an­nounce­ment of A.J. … and peo­ple just wanted to see him. Now that we’ve matched our win to­tal from last year and we’re sit­ting in first place, there’s just a lot of pos­i­tive vibes go­ing on right now.”

The CeeBees re­turn to the ice in Har­bour Grace Satur­day night when they wel­come the South­ern Shore Break­ers to the new rink.

Puck drop is sched­uled 7:30 p.m.

Now that we’ve matched our win to­tal from last year and we’re sit­ting in first place, there’s just a lot of pos­i­tive vibes go­ing on right now. Ian Moores

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NI­CHOLAS MERCER/TC ME­DIA

HGOE CeeBee Stars for­ward Matthew Thomey makes a move in the St. John’s Caps zone dur­ing Avalon East Se­nior Hockey League ac­tion at the Danny Cleary Com­mu­nity Cen­tre in Har­bour Grace on Oct. 22. The CeeBees (3-0-1) sit in first place with seven points.

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