Pee wee AAA provincial championship in Harbour Grace this weekend
The Danny Cleary Community Centre in Harbour Grace will be abuzz this weekend as the province’s best pee wee players go to battle for the AAA provincial title.
The Harbour Grace Ocean Enterprises CeeBee Stars are the 2016-17 Avalon East Senior Hockey League champions.
©Andrew Robinson/TC Media
For the first time since 2011, the CeeBee Stars are the champions of the Avalon East Senior Hockey League.
The Harbour Grace Ocean Enterprises CeeBee Stars defeated the Northeast Senior Eagles 5-3 in Game 6, claiming the best-of-seven series 4-2. This gives the CeeBees its first shot at the Herder Memorial Trophy – the top prize in Newfoundland senior hockey — since 2013, when the team swept the Clarenville Caribous.
“Right from day one, that’s was motivation for us, to get to the Herder,” playoff MVP and CeeBee Stars goalie A.J. Whiffen told The Compass following Friday night’s win in Torbay. “We want to see how we match up against the other league, and we have a point to prove.”
Steven Greeley opened the scoring for the CeeBees four minutes into the first, jamming home the puck from in close on Eagles goalie Mark Yetman. Then with Yetman penalized for delay of game, Kenny King potted in a rebound off a Brett Shute shot to make it 2-0. Mark Chaplin got the home team back in the game with five minutes left in the first to make it a one-goal game. Shots were 14-12 for the visitors after one.
The Eagles were cruising two-thirds of the way through the second period, tying things up with a power play goal from Daniel Cadigan and flying away with a 15-5 shot advantage. But Kenny King’s fluky second goal of the game in front of the net gave the CeeBees back the lead, and from there, the visiting team did some flying of its own.
Cody Batten scored early in the third to give the CeeBees another two-goal cushion, and with Sean Wadden sent to the dressing room after receiving a five-minute major for a hard check along the boards, Riley Ricks wristed a shot past Yetman glove-side to make it 5-2.
Chris Thorne gave the Eagles a bit of life with less than four minutes remaining, cashing in on a scramble in front of the net. Yetman was pulled for the extra attacker shortly thereafter, but the Eagles couldn’t respond further.
“I think the fans, and the players, and the community have been waiting for a few years for this now,” coach Ian Moores said after the game. “After what we went through last year, it feels unbelievable.”
As was the case all year, A.J. Whiffen did some heavy lifting in goal for the CeeBee Stars, making 42 saves for the visitors. Yetman faced 40 shots.
“The veteran guys, they took the young guys under their wing, and when their nerves were a little bit up in the air, they settled them down and we got back to our game plan and we took it to the Eagles tonight,” said Whiffen.
The CeeBees, who had the best regular season record in the five-team league after winning only three games the previous year, await the winner of the Central West Senior Hockey League final between the Caribous and the Grand Falls-Windsor Cataracts. The Caribous won the first two games of that series, with Game 3 set to take place Saturday night in Grand Falls-Windsor.
Coach Peter George likes the team’s chances.
“We certainly can play,” he said. “We’re not going into the Herder with the mindset that we can’t compete or we don’t belong. We’re going to go in as the Avalon East Senior Hockey League champs, and that we belong there because of that reason. We’re still going to play our game. We’ll play our brand of hockey. We have nothing to lose. We’re the underdogs. Let the chips fall where they may. We’ll be coming hard.”
“We got character in the room, we’ve got veteran guys, we’ve got lots of guys who’ve won lots of Herders on our team,” he said. “So we’ll go out there, take it five minutes at a time and see where we end up.”
The 2016-17 season marked the CeeBees second since returning to the Avalon East league. There was no senior hockey played in Harbour Grace for the 2014-15 season after the CeeBees were excluded from the new Central West league.