Tonight’s Game 3 of The Telegram Herder Memorial Trophy Championship Series against the Grand Falls-Windsor Cataracts is the most important game of the season for the Conception Bay North Eastlink CeeBee Stars.
Down 2-0 in the best-of-seven provincial senior hockey final, a win at Joe Byrne Memorial Stadium tonight would put the seven-time Avalon East champion CeeBees back in the series. A loss only tightens the noose.
“No one’s saying you can’t come back from 3-0, but we don’t want to put ourselves in that position,” says CeeBees forward Scott Brophy.
“We know the importance of this game, as do (the Cataracts). They’ve got us down right now and I’m sure they want to make sure we stay down. It’s going to be a very intense game and we’re going to bring the intensity, that’s for sure.”
Intensity was lacking from both benches in the series opener.
It wasn’t until Sunday’s Game 2 that some real hits started being thrown and the play got, “a little more chippy” according to Brophy.
“I think that’s due to the fact there is some unfamiliarity between the two teams. It’s like there’s no rivalry there,” Brophy contends.
“It took a couple of games to create that rivalry.”
In the end, it was the little victories — battles along the boards and 50/50 races for the puck — which have the Cats at home in command of the series.
“They’re usually won by the player who wants it more, and full credit to them for last weekend. I think on the whole, they probably wanted it more,” Brophy suggests, adding that, “even after a hard weekend of hockey, we did some battle drills down low” at practice this week.
Another aspect of the CeeBees’ undoing were turnovers in the defensive end that a fast, quick puck moving team such as the Cataracts were able to capitalize on.
“We know the importance of this game, as do (the Cataracts). They’ve got us down right now and I’m sure they want to make sure we stay down. It’s going to be a very intense game and we’re going to bring the intensity, that’s for sure.” - Scott Brophy
“We kind of let a few things slip and we gave them too much time and space,” says CeeBees defenceman Brandon Roach, who returned to action for the Herder after spending four weeks — and the the bulk of the Avalon East league playoffs — nursing a back injury.
“Once you give them an inch, with a team like that, they’ll take a mile. We’ve got to play in their face hockey the whole time, take away time and space and definitely be better on the back end.”
While the CeeBees’ effort on the defensive end was questionable, there was no doubting the skill of their forward units as they lost by just one goal Friday and Saturday at Mile One Centre in St. John’s.
That said, both Brophy and Roach agree the CeeBees need to take a page from the Cats’ playbook this weekend.
“They throw the puck at the net and crash. That’s playoff hockey,” Roach says. “You’re not going to score the pretty goal every time.”
The CeeBees, Roach says, haven’t played their best hockey yet but says, “on the whole we need a kick in the behind to get everyone going.”
“If we can find a little spark in the first part of the game and play a full 60, playing the type of hockey we’ve been able to play, we should be alright,” Roach says.
“We know the situation we’re in, we got ourselves in it and we know how to get ourselves out,” says Roach.
Game 3 goes tonight and Saturday’s Game 5 both have 7:30 p.m. starts. If a Game 5 is necessary, it will be played 2 p.m. Sunday in Grand Falls-Windsor.
Games 6 and 7, if necessary, are set for April 8-9 at Mile One Centre.