CeeBee Stars win Avalon East cham­pi­onship se­ries

The Compass - - Sports - BY AN­DREW ROBIN­SON TC ME­DIA ed­i­tor@cb­n­com­pass.ca

For the first time since 2011, the CeeBee Stars are the cham­pi­ons of the Avalon East Se­nior Hockey League.

The Har­bour Grace Ocean En­ter­prises CeeBee Stars de­feated the North­east Se­nior Ea­gles 5-3 in Game 6, claim­ing the be­stof-seven se­ries 4-2. This gives the CeeBees its first shot at the Herder Me­mo­rial Tro­phy – the top prize in New­found­land se­nior hockey — since 2013, when the team swept the Clarenville Cari­bous.

“Right from day one, that’s was mo­ti­va­tion for us, to get to the Herder,” play­off MVP and CeeBee Stars goalie A.J. Whif­fen told The Com­pass fol­low­ing Fri­day night’s win in Tor­bay. “We want to see how we match up against the other league, and we have a point to prove.”

Steven Gree­ley opened the scor­ing for the CeeBees four min­utes into the first, jam­ming home the puck from in close on Ea­gles goalie Mark Yet­man. Then with Yet­man pe­nal­ized for de­lay of game, Kenny King pot­ted in a re­bound off a Brett Shute shot to make it 2-0. Mark Chap­lin got the home team back in the game with five min­utes left in the first to make it a one-goal game. Shots were 14-12 for the vis­i­tors af­ter one.

The Ea­gles were cruis­ing twothirds of the way through the sec­ond pe­riod, ty­ing things up with a power play goal from Daniel Cadi­gan and fly­ing away with a 15-5 shot ad­van­tage. But Kenny King’s fluky sec­ond goal of the game in front of the net gave the CeeBees back the lead, and from there, the vis­it­ing team did some fly­ing of its own.

Cody Bat­ten scored early in the third to give the CeeBees an­other two-goal cush­ion, and with Sean Wad­den sent to the dress­ing room af­ter re­ceiv­ing a fiveminute ma­jor for a hard check along the boards, Ri­ley Ricks wristed a shot past Yet­man glove­side to make it 5-2.

Chris Thorne gave the Ea­gles a bit of life with less than four min­utes re­main­ing, cash­ing in on a scram­ble in front of the net. Yet­man was pulled for the ex­tra at­tacker shortly there­after, but the Ea­gles couldn’t re­spond fur­ther.

“I think the fans, and the play­ers, and the com­mu­nity have been wait­ing for a few years for this now,” coach Ian Moores said af­ter the game. “Af­ter what we went through last year, it feels un­be­liev­able.”

As was the case all year, A.J. Whif­fen did some heavy lift­ing in goal for the CeeBee Stars, mak­ing 42 saves for the vis­i­tors. Yet­man faced 40 shots.

“The vet­eran guys, they took the young guys un­der their wing, and when their nerves were a lit­tle bit up in the air, they set­tled them down and we got back to our game plan and we took it to the Ea­gles tonight,” said Whif­fen.

The CeeBees, who had the best reg­u­lar sea­son record in the fiveteam league af­ter win­ning only three games the pre­vi­ous year, await the win­ner of the Cen­tral West Se­nior Hockey League fi­nal be­tween the Cari­bous and the Grand Falls-Wind­sor Cataracts. The Cari­bous were lead­ing the best-of-seven se­ries 3-2 prior to Game 6, which was sched­uled to be played Sun­day night, March 19.

Coach Peter Ge­orge likes the team’s chances.

“We cer­tainly can play,” he said. “We’re not go­ing into the Herder with the mind­set that we can’t com­pete or we don’t be­long. We’re go­ing to go in as the Avalon East Se­nior Hockey League champs, and that we be­long there be­cause of that rea­son. We’re still go­ing to play our game. We’ll play our brand of hockey. We have noth­ing to lose. We’re the un­der­dogs. Let the chips fall where they may. We’ll be com­ing hard.”

Whif­fen agrees.

“We got char­ac­ter in the room, we’ve got vet­eran guys, we’ve got lots of guys who’ve won lots of Herders on our team,” he said. “So we’ll go out there, take it five min­utes at a time and see where we end up.”

The 2016-17 sea­son marked the CeeBees sec­ond since re­turn­ing to the Avalon East league. There was no se­nior hockey played in Har­bour Grace for the 2014-15 sea­son af­ter the CeeBees were ex­cluded from the new Cen­tral West league.

We have noth­ing to lose. We’re the un­der­dogs. Let the chips fall where they may. We’ll be com­ing hard. — Peter Ge­orge

PHO­TOS BY AN­DREW ROBIN­SON/TC ME­DIA

The Har­bour Grace Ocean En­ter­prises CeeBee Stars are the 2016-17 Avalon East Se­nior Hockey League cham­pi­ons. Top right: Play­ers gather around play­off MVP A.J. Whif­fen as the buzzer sounds to end the CeeBee Stars 5-3 vic­tory in Game 6.

Cen­ter right: Kenny King scores his first of two goals in the de­cid­ing game early in the first pe­riod.

Bot­tom right: A.J. Whif­fen was named the Avalon East Se­nior Hockey League play­off MVP af­ter Fri­day night’s game.

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