After successive seasons of dominance in the Avalon East senior circuit, the skate is on the other foot for the Conception Bay North Eastlink CeeBee Stars in the new Newfoundland Senior Hockey League.
Eight games into the season, the CeeBees find themselves in an unfamiliar position: last place.
“The CeeBees don’t go 1-7,” says coach Steve Power whose team is on a five-game losing streak, capped off by a 5-2 road loss to the Grand Falls-Windsor Cataracts last weekend.
“When things start not going your way, the snowball is pretty small at the top of the hill and as she goes down, she gets bigger and bigger. We’re probably halfway down the hill now. We’ve just got to figure out something going to stop the ball from rolling.”
Four of the CeeBees’ seven losses have been by one goal and two of those have been decided in a shootout, so it’s not as if the CeeBees are being decimated by the competition.
“We’ve had some games where we’ve had good starts and let off,” says Power, who points to lack of consistency as the chief problem.
“Our most consistent player, and it shows in the stats, is Keith Delaney. He’s been a true work horse, a veteran who has done everything we’ve asked.”
Delaney, tied for first in league scoring with the Cataracts’ Martin Lapointe (15 points), says regardless of how close the games have been, “At the end of the day we’re still left with one win.”
“Aside from that, if I said we left the rink as a team satisfied or content or anything but frustrated, it would be a lie,” says Delaney.
“As a team, a group of 25 players, coaching staff and executive, we know we can be better and that we have to be better very soon.”
Delaney insists this team can compete with the likes of the Caribous and Cataracts, teams which knocked off the CeeBees in the last three Telegram Herder Memorial Championship Series. The CeeBees were swept by the Cats in last year’s provincial senior final, and collected just one win in each of the previous two championships against Clarenville.
“As long as I’ve been playing hockey, I’ve always believed any team can beat anyone else on any given night. We have that attitude and we believe we can compete,” said Delaney.
“On the whole, we think we’re better than the record we have right now.”
The CeeBees are the second most-penalized team in the NSHL behind the Mount Pearl Blades, and penalties have been very much their undoing. The CeeBees have given up at least two power-play markers in all but two contests, and 15 of the 41 goals against C.B.N. have come on the man-advantage — resulting in a dismal .769 penalty kill percentage.
Power says the CeeBees “Have to stop blaming the referees and start holding each other accountable.
“We’ve got to be more disciplined and work harder not to take extra penalties and when we do, we need work a little harder on the penalty kill,” says the coach.
CeeBees fans looking for signs of hope should feel encouraged that players and coach alike feel fully accountable for the team’s start.
Delaney says the onus to produce wins lands squarely with the players.
“No coach and no one from the executive should take the brunt of what’s going on,” he says. “As a group, if we’re not looking in the mirror and realizing we’re the ones on the ice and responsible for this record right now, then we’re looking in the wrong direction.”
But Power, who admits to feeling like he’s on thin ice with the club since a players-only meeting following a 4-3 loss to Mount Pearl last month, takes full responsibility.
“If there’s something I can do better. I gotta figure it out,” says Power. “ If there’s something the players need to be doing, I’m the one who has to tell them. A lot of it going to fall on me as the coach.
“We’re in a dark spot and we’ve got to find a way back to the light.”
The way back begins tonight in at the Mount Pearl Glacier where they take on the Blades, the hottest team in the league. Mount Pearl is on a four-game win streak that includes a pair of one-goal victories over the CeeBees.
“I’d go so far as to they’re the hardest-working team in the league,” Power says of the third-place Blades. “We’ve got to come out and match that work ethic.”
It might only be a third of the way through the season, with 16 games left to be played, but Delaney doesn’t buy into the “it’s only early” line of thinking.
“Every single point from the first game of the year is extremely important and we’re in a situation now where we can’t afford to lose any more games,” he says. “We’re looking for a spark to turn us around... if we can go in there and get a win, maybe that’s the spark that could us going.”