© Photo by Nicholas Mercer/The Compass
CeeBee Stars forwards Chris Sparkes (centre) and Ray Dalton (left) celebrate Sparkes' third period goal against the Gander Flyers Feb. 10 at the S.W. Moores Memorial Stadium in Harbour Grace. The CeeBees beat the Flyers 5-3 to clinch the fourth and final playoff spot in the Newfoundland Senior Hockey League.
The CeeBee Stars have punched its tickets to the playoffs after a hard-fought 5-3 victory over the Gander Flyers at the S.W. Moores Memorial Stadium in Harbour Grace on Feb. 10.
Along with clinching the fourth spot in the province-wide league, the CeeBees also pulled a giant monkey off its back.
The victory was only the second win on home ice for the club and ended a skid of seven straight losses in Harbour Grace.
“It feels awesome,” said CeeBees’ captain Keith Delaney moments after the victory. “We felt we could make the playoffs, and it’s nice to achieve that here today at home.”
The CeeBees have now won two straight and are seemingly heading into the playoffs at the top of its game.
“We’ve got a win streak going and a lot of positive energy,” said forward Terry Ryan.
Sunday’s (Feb. 10) matchup had the feel of a big game. It featured a team of experienced players, the CeeBees, versus the young guns, the Flyers. The tense atmosphere inside the arena played out with every scoring chance. Fans from both sides either squealed or sighed in relief as both starters turned back the advances of the other team.
There was no quit in the Flyers. Up until the final buzzer, the visitors kept coming, pushing for the equalizers. Through the the pressure CeeBees’ tender Mark Yetman stood tall, turning aside all but three of the 43 shots he faced.
Also up to the task was Patty o’Brien. Although he was saddled with the loss, O’Brien was brilliant at times. The score could have been worse if not for his efforts, and likewise for Yetman.
After a first 15 minutes that saw fast-paced, end-to-end hockey, the Flyers opened the scoring when Steve Brazil took a pass from Shane Boland and beat Yetman short side late in the first period.
The CeeBees opened the second frame off strong. In a deft display of passing, Delaney moved the puck to Colin Feehan, who in turn hit Robert Slaney coming across the front of the net. Slaney would out wait O’Brien and slide the puck into the yawning cage at .22 seconds of period.
The CeeBees would start to take control of the play until Jordan Escott took a slashing penalty. On the powerplay, a scramble broke out in front of the net. A Flyers’ player knocked the puck towards the open goal only to see CeeBees’ d-man Donnie Gosse make a desperate attempt to save the sure tally.
Gosse stopped the puck, but at the same time closed his hand over the disc in the crease, which is a automatic penalty shot.
Former-CeeBee Sean Wadden took the shot for the Flyers and beat Yetman five-hole to put the visitors up 2-1.
Two minutes later, Ray Dalton took a pass from Ryan and fired a rocket over the glove hand of O’Brien to tie the game at 2-2. Chris Sparkes also picked up an assist on the play.
The rest of the period saw the teams trade scoring chances, with the CeeBees having the majority. It seemed like whoever scored the next goal was going to come away with the win.
Opening the third period, the home side kept pushing. It would be Ryan Delaney, in the midst of probably his finest game of the season, scoring the pivotal third goal of the game. Ryan jammed a loose puck under O’Brien to give his team the lead.
The CeeBees would rattle two more goals to seal the victory. First, Sparkes beat O’Brien and then Escott put a loose puck in to the Flyers goal to make it 5-2.
Spencer Corcoran would get a late goal to set up a tense finish.
However, it would be the CeeBees who prevailed by a score of 5-3.
After the game, an Irish fiddle could be heard coming from the CeeBees’ room at the far end of the stadium as the team celebrated the victory.
“We’ve had such an up-and-down year that I think we may be peaking heading into the playoffs, which is a good thing,” said Ryan.
Ryan felt that his team carried much of the play in today’s game.
“I wouldn’t say we dominated,” he said. “I think they reacted off us at the last of the game and that’s what you want. You want to set the pace yourself.”
As the game moved into its latter stages, the CeeBees experience came into play.
“As the game went on, you saw experience win out over piss and vinegar,” said Ryan.
“It came down to we really wanted it and we worked hard,” said Delaney.
The CeeBees can now look forward to a first-round matchup with the Grand Falls-Windsor Cataracts.