Scoring increase puts CeeBee Stars in first place
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
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.