On Wednesday (March 13) the CeeBee Stars held its last practice before the team faces the Clarenville Caribous in Game 3 of the Herder Memorial Trophy championship series at the S.W. Moores Memorial Stadium in Harbour Grace.
Up two games to none in the best-of-seven series, a sense of anticipation, and a particular kind of energy, hung in the air and bounced off the walls of the arena.
That energy could be felt on the ice as well.
Pucks clanged off goal posts and smacked off the glass as players were put through their paces by coaches Ian Moores and Peter George. During stoppages between drills, players joked with each other and then it was back to work in anticipation for the set of upcoming home games on Friday (March 15), Saturday (March 16) and possibly Sunday (March 17).
“It’s a big accomplishment coming here 2-0, but we also know there’s nothing done. We have a long way to go,” said veteran forward Chris Sparkes during a break in the action.
Missing from the practice were injured forwards Terry Ryan (fractured rib) and Jamie Tobin (broken hand), as well as Robert Slaney, Chris Hulit, Nick Theriault and Jordan Escott.
“Clarenville is very skilled and if you let them breath they can open the game up,” said Sparkes.
CeeBees captain Keith Delaney said the team is looking to take each game as it comes.
“We’re far from comfortable and we know there is a lot of hard work to be done yet,” he said.
Delaney said he expects the Caribous to try and take the raucous pro-CeeBees crowd out of the game quickly.
“They’re going to be playing some physical hockey … to try and get on us early,” he said. “We just have to stick to the same game plan that we’ve had for the last two games.”
Even though the CeeBees will be, no doubt, highly charged for the first Herder game on home ice in 40-plus years and it will be important for the team not to get caught up in the excitement.
“Even though it is our own barn … we still have to make sure we focus on hockey and stay focused for the full game,” said Delaney.
“If we play well defensively, like we did in Game 1 and 2, and we feed off the energy in this building, we should be alright,” added defenceman Mike Dyke.
The CeeBees are in the midst of winning eight of their last 11 games dating back to the weekend of Feb. 2-3.
“It’s been a great stretch,” said Dyke. “We sort of had our back to the wall with all of the adversity going on with the organization and everything else. When we had our back to the wall, and we were forced to win in order to make the playoffs, we sat down and said, ‘okay guys, now’s the time to come together and now’s the time to get it going.”
Friday’s (March 15) game is set for a 8 p.m. start, with pre-game festivities to include nine members of the 1967 Herder Memorial Trophy winning team. March 16 (Saturday) will see puck drop at 7:30 p.m., while Game 5 on March 17 is scheduled to start at 2 p.m. should it be necessary.