Scor­ing in­crease puts CeeBee Stars in first place

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

The early sea­son talk about the Har­bour Grace Ocean En­ter­prises (HGOE) CeeBee Stars has cen­tered on A.J. Whif­fen and his play be­tween the pipes.

And, with good rea­son. With the Grand Falls-Wind­sor na­tive in goal, the CeeBees have sur­ren­dered just 13 goals in seven games and have yet to lose in reg­u­la­tion.

That’s good enough to put the CeeBees (6-0-1) in first place of the five-team Avalon East Se­nior Hockey League.

Yet, the suc­cess the team is hav­ing in goal is only one part of the rea­son why the Har­bour Grace-based club has ex­pe­ri­enced such a re­ver­sal in for­tunes this sea­son.

The other half is sim­ple, re­ally. The CeeBees are putting the puck in their op­po­nent’s goal at a higher rate than last sea­son.

At this point in the 2015-16 sea­son, the team had man­aged just 2.6 goals a game. That’s in­creased to 3.6 goals a game in the early go­ing this year.

Although they may never reach scor­ing heights set by the 1983-84 Ed­mon­ton Oilers team that pot­ted 5.6 goals a game, it does put the CeeBees in line with the South­ern Shore Break­ers and Bell Is­land Blues when it comes to putting the puck in the net.

CeeBees coach Peter Ge­orge chalks the in­crease in scor­ing to hav­ing a more bal­anced at­tack in 2016.

“We’ve got three pretty well bal­anced scor­ing lines,” he told The Com­pass last week. “We had maybe one and one some nights, two last year. This year, we cer­tainly have three and we have a fourth line that goes out and get- ting their job done. They’re giv­ing the scor­ing lines a rest.

“They’re stick­ing to a game plan and it’s been work­ing out for us.”

This bal­anced at­tack can be di­rectly at­trib­uted to the tal­ent the team added in the off­sea­son. The likes of Matthew Thomey, Sam Roberts and Cody Bat­ten just added to a core that fea­tured Robert Slaney, Andrew Fen­wick and Kenny King. In re­cent weeks, they’ve added St. John’s sniper Colin Fee­han to the lineup.

Head­ing into last week­end, there were two CeeBees at the top of the league’s scor­ing race, one sits fifth and another cou­ple hov­er­ing around the top-20 mark.

Slaney is at the top with 13 points (four goals, nine as­sists) and Thomey trails just be­hind him with 11 points (five goals, six as­sists).

Mean­while, Roberts is fifth with nine points (three goals, six as­sists).

“Last year, we put a lot of pres­sure on Robert (Slaney) … but this year, maybe he doesn’t feel the pres­sure, he’s go­ing out, he’s hav­ing fun and he’s play­ing hockey in a way that’s al­low­ing him to put up some points,” said Ge­orge.

Even with the uptick in scor­ing, there is an area of the game where the CeeBees would like to im­prove mov­ing for­ward.

They’ve failed to gen­er­ate any sort of suc­cess on the pow­er­play. They sit dead last in ef­fi­ciency and have scored just twice with the man-ad­van­tage.

“Ev­ery­one would like to see the pow­er­play get a lit­tle bit bet­ter,” said Ge­orge. “For the most part, we’re car­ry­ing the play well and we’re get­ting op­por­tu­ni­ties, it’s just the puck won’t go in the net.

“We’re gain­ing the zone well and we’re mov­ing the puck. It’s just a mat­ter of bang­ing that puck in.”

The CeeBees are in ac­tion next when they head to the CBS Sta­dium for a matchup with the Blues on Nov. 25. Puck drop is sched­uled for 8:15 p.m.

The team is back at the Danny Cleary Com­mu­nity Cen­tre the fol­low­ing night when they com­plete the home-and-home se­ries with the Blues.

The game in Har­bour Grace is set to start 7:30 p.m.

We’re gain­ing the zone well and we’re mov­ing the puck. It’s just a mat­ter of bang­ing that puck in. Peter Ge­orge

NI­CHOLAS MERCER/TC ME­DIA

Har­bour Grace Ocean En­ter­prises CeeBee Stars cap­tain Robert Slaney (right) raises his arm af­ter scor­ing against the North­east Ea­gles in Avalon East Se­nior Hockey League ac­tion in Har­bour Grace on Nov. 12.

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