he two teams in the series — the Clarenville Ford Caribous and Harbour Grace Ocean Enterprises CeeBee Stars — both had to dig deep to overcome obstacles on the opening weekend of the series.
The Avalon East Senior Hockey League champion CeeBees, considered by many to be the underdogs in the matchup, pulled out a 2-1 win on Sunday despite not having captain Robert Slaney in the lineup. The Caribous, meanwhile, proved their mettle by playing three spirited games within 48 hours. They had won the Central West Senior Hockey League title in Grand Falls-Windsor on Friday night before busing to Harbour Grace, where they prevailed 4-2 in Game 1 of the Herder on Saturday.
Toss in some frustration and a few grudges that sometimes develop in what is always an intense and hard-fought series, and you usually have great hockey. And that’s what was delivered over the weekend.
The CeeBees’ Matthew Thomey, who scored the winner Sunday at 17:40 of the third period, said the Game 2 victory was a big morale booster for the team.
“We feel really good. It’s a high we’re all feeling after getting that win,” Thomey said. “We came into this game looking at it as a must-win.”
Thomey noted that although he and his teammates will certainly enjoy their victory moment, their focus will soon switch to Game 3, set for Friday at the Clarenville Events Centre.
“We’re really confident … but we know it’ll be another battle,” he said. “I think we proved here today just what kind of guys we’ve got on our team.”
The high tempo of Saturday’s series opener carried over to Sunday afternoon at the Danny Cleary Community Centre, where both games were played before full houses.
The first period Sunday was scoreless, but not devoid of excitement. The Ceebees’ Ray Dalton received a five-minute penalty and a game misconduct with 6:01 left in the frame for charging Caribous goaltender Jason Churchill after the latter came out of the net to try to corral a potential breakaway puck.
The collision saw Churchill’s mask knocked off and drew a crowd, which also resulted in several roughing penalties for each team. But the CeeBees knocked down Dalton’s major, providing a boost to the team and the cheering fans.
Great goaltending from Churchill and the CeeBees’ AJ Whiffen kept the game scoreless until the Caribous broke through at the 5:38 mark of the second period when Mason Reid tallied. Clarenville retained the 1-0 lead until the 12:26 mark of the third period when John Charles Snow tied the game. It was a tally seemed to take some of the spark out of the Caribous and the CeeBees took advantage, eventually getting Thomey’s late game-winner.
Caribous head coach Rebecca Russell said her team had a “little breakdown” in the third period Sunday, which she saw as resulting from a combination of her team running out of gas after three tough games in 48 hours and an unrelenting effort by the CeeBees.
“It was a hard game Friday night in Grand Falls-Windsor, it went into overtime, and then long travel, not getting home until four or five o’clock in the morning,” Russell said. “So we were happy coming out with a win (Saturday), even though our guys were gassed in that third period. Our guys dug deep and got through it.
“And same (Sunday). Three games within 48 hours, we knew it was going to be tough. We also knew the CeeBees were going to come hard in their own barn. So, the way we feel … (with) a split in the Herder final going home, we are in good shape.”
Russell said her team will get much-needed rest during the week and be ready for Friday in Clarenville.
The coach also noted that forward Kevin Reid, injured against the Cataracts last Friday night, is expected back in the Caribous’ lineup for Game 3.
While the CeeBees will likely be without Slaney for whole of the Herder series, the team did pick up some strengthening players for the Herder final as is permitted by Hockey Newfoundland and Labrador. The players are Shane Boland, Ray Dalton and Jeremy Nicholas from the Southern Shore Breakers, and Daniel Cadigan and Jeremy Kavanagh from the Tapper’s Northeast Eagles.
CeeBees’ coach Ian Moores said playing games in Clarenville next weekend won’t be too big of an adjustment for his club, as the ice surface at the Events Centre is similar to that of the new arena in Harbour Grace.
“We’re going in as the underdogs,” Moores said. “But our boys are pumped up, especially after this win (Sunday), so we’re going to go in, give it our best, and hopefully come back home with the trophy.”