The CeeBee Stars deserved a better fate than the one given to them Saturday night (Jan. 19) at the S.W. Moores Memorial Stadium in Harbour Grace.
Save for a few instances where the Western Royals kept the play in the CeeBees’ end, the home team played above the visitors.
That was especially true in the final frame when the CeeBees blistered Royals starter Bryan Gillis with 14 shots. Western only mustered five shots on CeeBees’ starter Mark Yetman, in comparison.
“That’s what the frustrating part is. You’re in every game and you’re battling,” said CeeBees’ forward Jordan Escott. “Sometimes, you outplay teams and you just don’t get the result.”
Aside from outplaying their opponents for the majority of the contest, the CeeBees failed to get the bounces needed to get them over the hump. On multiple occasions, a loose puck would land on the stick of a CeeBees’ forward, but nothing would come of it.
“It’s been like that all year,” said Escott. “You can’t really make excuses. Obviously, I don’t think we’re getting the best luck, but sometimes you have to make it yourself and hopefully get a few bounces tomorrow.”
Ironically, it was lucky bounce for the Royals that got the visitors on the board first. A botched clearing attempt by the CeeBees’ bounced directly to forward Jordan Bonneville, who slide the puck to Michael Hynes, who slide it into the net.
The Royals would jump out to a 2-0 advantage on Hynes’ second of the night. Ryan Penney and Chad Earle had the helpers.
The first period ended with the Royals up two.
The CeeBees’ opened the scoring in the second frame when Ray Dalton tipped home a point shot from Donnie Gosse past Gillis. Terry Ryan also had an assist on the play.
Next on the board were the Royals. With a CeeBee in the box, Darren Langdon took a pass from Justin Barbour and snuck the puck over the shoulder of Yetman and under the crossbar for a 3-1 score.
Victoria’s Ryan Penney tipped home a Stephen Simms shot to make the score 4-1.
That was all of the scoring before a break in the glass caused a lengthy stoppage. When play resumed, it was all CeeBees. The club pestered Gillis from the drop of the puck with just over five minutes remaining in the second period.
Every time, Gillis was up to the task. The CeeBees were unable to crack Gillis until just over three minutes left when a scramble in front of the Royals’ goal resulted in Robert Slaney picking up his ninth of the season. Chris Hulit and Keith Delaney picked up assists.
Captain Keith Delaney pulled his team to within one with just over a minute to go, setting up a mad scramble until the final buzzer. Gillis stood tall for the Royals, not allowing the CeeBees to find the net behind him and force overtime.
When the final buzzer had sounded, the CeeBees’ had been defeated 4-3, but were given a standing ovation by the 700-plus fans who were in attendance.
Royals’ head coach Ed Kearsey said the key to tonight’s victory was sticking to the game plan, which was to get the puck in deep and establish a solid forecheck.
“For the most part, when we did that we took it to them,” he said.
Gillis faced 41 shots on the evening, turning away 38 of them. Kearsey said his keeper was a big part of the victory.
“When you have a guy like (Bryan) Gillis on your team, he can steal one for you like he did tonight,” he said. “We just had to help him out in the dying minutes.”
A key for the CeeBees will be too attempt to carry over the play of the third period into Sunday’s contest.
“We have to start in the first and put together a full 60,” he said.
While the CeeBees failed to pick up a point Saturday night, the Gander Flyers also failed to pick up a victory, dropping its contest to the Clarenville Caribous 6-4. The CeeBees are chasing the Flyers for the final playoff spot.
Puck drop for Sunday’s contest is scheduled for 1:30 p.m.