CeeBees reflect on Herder win
Contentious call on game-winning goal doesn’t put a damper on CeeBee Stars’ excitement following Game 5 win
It didn’t come easily and not without considerably controversy, but the Harbour Grace Ocean Enterprises CeeBees Stars went nose-to-nose against the Clarenville Carbious and proved the top team in the Avalon East league shouldn’t be taken lightly. The CeeBees Herder victory this month is the ninth for a senior hockey club from Harbour Grace.
Three years ago, four teams from the former Newfoundland Senior Hockey League left the CeeBee Stars on the outside looking in, forming a new league and leaving the CeeBees with nowhere to play.
Harbour Grace went a full season without hosting any senior hockey games. When the CeeBee Stars returned to the Avalon East Senior Hockey League in 2015, the team found itself in hard shape, winning a mere three games in the regular season.
How those fortunes have changed. Following a weekend of intense hockey, the Harbour Grace Ocean Enterprises CeeBee Stars are back at the top of the heap in provincial senior hockey ranks. The team won its first Herder Memorial title since 2013 on Sunday April 2, defeating the Clarenville Caribous 4-3. It’s the ninth time a senior hockey team from Harbour Grace has won the trophy.
“To do it in year two is amazing,” coach Ian Moores told The Compass last Monday, noting the team started in 2015 with a five-year plan to contend for the Herder.
Moores and Peter George were both on the coaching staff in 2013 when the CeeBees last won the Herder and were behind the bench last season as the team found itself in rebuild mode.
Moores won his first Herder as a player with the Flatrock Flyers in 2003 before winning three more as a player with the CeeBees and two as a coach.
“This victory is very special due to the fact that we were such underdogs. As a matter of fact, we didn’t even reach underdog status. It was more like show up and get beaten three straight games by the semi-pro Caribous and hand them the trophy,” Moores said.
“It ranks as the absolute best for me,” George said last Monday. “What we went through last year and the rebuild of the organization and getting back into an Avalon East league and changing our policies, it was a total rebuild. And then to do what nobody thought we could accomplish this year — for me it’s the best one so far.”
Sunday’s win didn’t come without some controversy. The winning goal came off Kenny King’s stick, but players from the Caribous immediately disputed the goal, claiming it went under the net. Footage of the play captured by NTV reporter Ryan Harding appeared to confirm the goal shouldn’t have counted.
“Yes, I’ve seen the video and unfortunately, people are upset,” Moores said when asked about the play. “But referees are only human — and make mistakes. Also, there is no video review in amateur senior hockey and there were no goal judges, so everyone has to live with the call that was made on the ice and accept the outcome.”
George, who has not watched the video, initially thought it hit Churchill and went in.
“Those are things you can’t control as a team,” he said. “For us, the puck went in the net. It was called a good goal. We won the Herder. Thinking about it any other way for us I don’t think will do us fair justice, because of how hard we worked and truly deserved this … I don’t think anyone can take it away from us.”
According to TC Media’s The Packet, the team has filed an official protest with Hockey NL about the result of Game 5. Hockey NL released a statement last Tuesday that said protests cannot be made when it comes “to the judgement of a referee or official.”
Ahead of the 2016-17 season, things were generally looking up for the CeeBees. Former captain Matthew Thomey found himself returning to the team after accepting a job closer to his hometown of Harbour Grace. The team also picked up talented defenceman Sam Roberts, a veteran who has played in professional leagues.
But perhaps the biggest pickup of all was goaltender A.J. Whiffen. His steady presence in goal did not go unnoticed, as he claimed MVP honours in both the Avalon East playoffs and the Herder final.
In Game 4, the Caribous and CeeBees were deadlocked in a scoreless draw. If the Caribous scored, it would have been all over. It wasn’t until the second overtime period that Brett Shute scored to end it, and Whiffen finished the night with a 57-save shutout.
“Obviously we had strong goaltending, a strong defence, and we got timely goals when we needed them,” said George.
“A.J. was the MVP of the series for a reason,” added Moores, who considers Whiffen the best goaltender on the island.
For George, the big turning point was the Game 2 win on home ice in Harbour Grace. He said it gave the team confidence and proved the CeeBees could play with a team from the Central West league.
The CeeBees gained some help after the Avalon East series, picking up six strengthening players — Shane Boland, Ray Dalton, Daniel Dalton and Jeremy Nicholas from the Southern Shore Breakers and Daniel Cadigan and Jeremy Kavanagh from the Northeast Eagles.
“We couldn’t have picked six better players to try and help us win the Herder,” said Moores. “They are true leaders and we are extremely grateful that they came onboard.”
Both coaches gave full credit to the Caribous for their effort in a series that was closely contested throughout.
“The Caribous are such a skilled team,” said George. “Sometimes you get caught, just myself as a coach, watching their skill and how good they are. I’m sure they were frustrated at some point in the game, unable to score on A.J., who just played fantastic … They pushed us right to the limit, obviously, and we were very lucky to stick with it and battle against them and ride out some of the storms that they threw at us.”
Moores ultimately credits all involved in the CeeBees organization for making this season a successful one — from the players and team executives all the way down to the bench staff and dedicated volunteers.
While there are no details set in stone, fans should get ready for a public celebration in Harbour Grace in the not too distant future.
“We’ll certainly be taking the Herder back (to Harbour Grace) and having a nice little motorcade at a nice time for all of our fans, for sure,” said George.
Members of the Harbour Grace Ocean Enterprises CeeBee Stars gather around the Herder Memorial Trophy following a 4-3 victory in Game 5 Sunday, April 2.
The moments leading up to Kenny King’s controversial game-winning goal in Game 5. Video footage of the play appeared to show the puck sliding under the back of the net.
Herder MVP A.J. Whiffen raises his arms in goal as the buzzer sounds to end Game 5.
CeeBee Stars assistant captain and Harbour Grace native Matthew Thomey raises the Herder Memorial Trophy above his head as his teammate cheer on in the background. This is the first Herder win for the veteran CeeBee.