Critical weekend series with Flyers to determine team’s playoff fate
© Photo by Nicholas Mercer/The Compass
If the CeeBees want to beat the Flyers and the secure its playoff berth, it will need more of this from goaltender Mark Yetman. Here, Yetman stones a Clarenville Caribous player in close during senior hockey action Feb. 1 at the S.W. Moores Memorial Stadium in Harbour Grace.
The CeeBee Stars have appealed a decision by the Newfoundland and Senior Hockey League to rescind a critical point earned by the team in a shootout loss to the Western Royals on Jan. 27.
The dispute comes at a time when the CeeBees are preparing to host the Gander Flyers this weekend (Feb. 9-10) in a pair of games that will determine which team advances to the playoffs, with both teams fighting for the fourth and final spot.
The CeeBees earned the point following a shoot-out loss to the Royals. It was the team’s first point since its last victory on Dec. 1.
But word circulated on Friday, Feb. 1 that the league had rescinded the point following a complaint that the CeeBees had dressed an ineligible player — backup goaltender Freddie Diamond.
The league formally announced the decision on Feb. 4.
The following statement was posted to the league website: “Upon investigation it was confirmed that there was no record of this player being registered with HNL and as such was an ineligible player. “
The league constitution states “Any team placing ineligible players on the official game sheet shall forfeit the game to the opposing team in either regular schedule or playoff competition.”
The CeeBees “immediately” appealed, head coach Corey Crocker told The Compass Tuesday from his office in Amherst, NS, where he works with the Town of Amherst.
He explained that assistant coach Peter George sent all of the necessary paperwork to officials with Hockey Newfoundland and Labrador, the sport’s governing body in the province.
The decision came as a blow to the team as it began a three-game weekend with the top two teams in the league.
The CeeBees dropped a hard fought 6-4 decision to Clarenville at home on Friday, Feb. 1, and suffered a 3-1 road loss to Grand Falls-Windsor on Saturday.
The team’s fortune finally took a positive turn on Sunday when the CeeBees defeated the Cataracts 6-5 in a shootout, improving its records to 6-15-1, one point ahead of the Flyers (4-15-3).
“The win was a longtime coming,” said Crocker. “I think the timing is really good and I like the energy that’s there.”
The latest drama sets up a huge weekend at home for the CeeBees, which needs just one victory to clinch a playoff spot and earn a first-round matchup with the first place Cataracts.
The best-of-seven semifinal is scheduled to begin next weekend in Grand Falls-Windsor.
There is a scenario where the loss of the point could spell elimination for the CeeBees. Should the CeeBees lose both games in a shootout, Gander would end up with 15 points and the CeeBees would finish with 14.
“If we don’t win, we don’t deserve to be in the playoffs,” said Crocker, who will not be in Harbour Grace due to work commitments.
Much has been made of the fan attendance, or lack thereof, at the S.W. Moores Memorial Stadium in Harbour Grace.
Through the first nine home games of the season, the club has averaged close to 500 paying fans.
However, Friday’s turnout for the game against Clarenville saw a noticeable increase in the number of people lining up at the box office.
Even though the game was a make-up game for one cancelled in December, more than 600 fans answered the call and came out for a hard fought game.
“We have the best fans in the league and they showed it again Friday night,” said Crocker.
Winning can cure a lot of things. It makes food taste better and a player’s bed feel more comfortable at night.
Not only does the win with the Cataracts break the CeeBees’ eight game skid, it gives the players confidence heading into the big weekend series with the Flyers.
“The win is instrumental because you have the whole week,” said Crocker. “It’s not like you go into battle on Monday night or Tuesday night … you have the whole week to have that feeling of winning that game.”
Through the slide, the CeeBees have tried to stay positive, the coach stated.
“The boys always believed and it’s a slogan the team can use going down the stretch,” he said. “(The players) know deep down that they haven’t played bad hockey. They’ve had some unlucky bounces and come up against some hot goaltenders.”
Should the CeeBees get into the playoffs, the consensus is that the team can make some noise.
“I’ve said it since Day 1 that any team ahead of us in the standing won’t want to play the CeeBees and I still firmly believe that,” said Crocker. “Adversity builds character. Maybe, it was a blessing in disguise.”
The CeeBees get its first crack at cementing a playoff spot Saturday (Feb. 9) at 7:30 p.m., followed by a 1:30 p.m. start on Sunday.