Sure it has only been two games, but the sophomore season in the Newfoundland Senior Hockey League has already gotten off to a better start for the Conception Bay North CeeBee Stars than the 2011-2012 season.
That’s because in those two games the CeeBees have rattled off two wins, whereas last season it took the club nine games to reach the two win plateau.
The Harbour Grace club kicked off the sophomore season of the NLSHL with a two-game set against the expansion Gander Flyers at the Gander Community Centre, Oct. 20-21.
The Flyers were looking to get its first senior hockey win in 16 years and jumped out to a two-goal advantage early in the first period and held the lead until the second frame.
Shane Boland and Steve Pearson beat CeeBees’ starter Charles Lavigne for the Flyers.
“We started sloppy and the other team was really good,” said CeeBees head coach Corey Crocker.
The CeeBees did not falter when faced with a deficit on the scoreboard and charged out of the dressing room to start the second period. In the frame, the CeeBees would score three times, getting markers from Jordan Escott (2) and Ryan Delaney.
Gander would tie the game,3-3, on a goal from Andrew White in the second period.
Chris Sparkes would put the CeeBees ahead in the third, 4-3, and the CeeBees held onto the lead until the final horn.
“I thought the team showed fantastic exposure,” said Crocker.
Game 2 saw a different start from the CeeBees. The team jumped out to a two-goal first period lead and never looked back. The team would score three times in the second and two more times in the third to hand Gander its second loss with a 7-4 victory. Ray Dalton (2), Ryan Delaney (2), Mike Dyke, Chris Sparkes and Terry Ryan scored for the CeeBees.
Veteran forward Keith Delaney said the team knew it was going to be a tough task heading into Gander.
“We’re very happy to come out with two wins,” he said.
Crocker thought the Flyers played well in the first games for the franchise in 16 years.
“Any time you get two wins in this league is huge,” he said. “Points are so hard to get.”
Even before stepping on the ice Saturday, the CeeBees had to overcome some big odds.
Key defencemen Donnie Gosse and Doug O’Brien were unavailable because of work, forcing the CeeBees to play with only three regular d-men — Tim Greene, Fred Earle and Gander native Mike Dyke.
“We asked some guys to back and play defence,” said Crocker.
Robert Slaney and Jamie Tobin were tasked with manning the point in the absence of Gosse and O’Brien.
Delaney said the team “couldn’t ignore the fact that they had defence missing.”
The team had some holes to fill in the line up, and he “was happy with the way the holes were filled.”
With forwards sacrificing to play defence, Crocker called the victories a “great team effort.”
When the CeeBees made their way to the Community Centre, they were met with an extraordinary sight — a tailgate party.
The Gander faithful got the party started early, and it continued into the stadium.
“We were glad to be a part of the opener,” said Delaney. “We knew it would be electric.”
“The environment was amazing,” said Crocker.
After experience a first-class experience in Gander, Crocker said he wants to see the S.W. Moores Memorial Stadium in Harbour Grace get just as rowdy when the CeeBees open celebrate its home opener on Nov. 10 against the Western (formerly Corner Brook) Royals.
“We hope our fans are as loud,” he said.
The CeeBees are in action next weekend (Oct. 27-28) with a two-game series with the Clarenville Caribous at the Clarenville Event Centre.