They finished below .500 in the win-loss column this season, saw their coach fired at mid-season and failed to win even a single game in the shootout.
But it sure was a noisy bus carrying the Conception Bay North Eastlink CeeBee Stars back home to Harbour Grace from Corner Brook Sunday night, where C.B.N. had taken three of a possible four points from the homestanding Royals to secure the fourth and final playoff spot in the Newfoundland Senior Hockey League.
“Looking back on the year,” said CeeBees veteran Keith Delaney, “it was a struggle. We lost every shootout, and several one-goal games. We lost by a lopsided score in our first game of the year (10-3 to the Clarenville Caribous).
“So yes, it’s been a bittersweet season. But we got that final playoff spot by the skin of our teeth, so we’re more than happy with that.”
The CeeBees and Mount Pearl H.J. Bartlett Electric Blades entered the final weekend of the regular season tied for fourth place with 19 points apiece.
The Clarenville Caribous, who wrapped up their regular season last weekend, had top spot locked up long ago, with the Grand Falls-Windsor Cataracts solidly in second place. The Royals finished third.
The Blades, who played host to the Cataracts at the Glacier, entered the final weekend of play with a slight edge on C.B.N., with eight wins to the CeeBees’ seven.
According to the league’s tie-breaking rules, the team with the most wins gets the playoff spot should teams finished deadlocked.
“In the back of our minds,” said Delaney, “we knew it was out of our hands. So we just decided to go out there in the first game, play hard and get the win and then see how Mount Pearl does.
“When they (Blades) lost, then we knew it was in our hands.”
As the Blades were losing 4-3 to the Cataracts, the CeeBees were losing 3-2 to the Royals in a shootout, meaning C.B.N. was picking up an all-important point.
Sunday afternoon, the Blades’ fate was sealed in a 5-4 loss, while the CeeBees came up big in an 8-5 win at the Pepsi Centre.
They did so without coach Cory Crocker, who replaced Steve Power after Chrismas. While Crocker was back home in Nova Scotia, assistant coach/GM Peter George ran the CeeBees’ bench along with Ian Moores, the former long-time C.B.N. coach.
“The thing is,” said Delaney, “even though we were in fourth place most of the year, we always believed we were better than our record indicated. Aside from that first game (of the season), we gave ourselves a chance to win every night.
“So if the measure of success is a playoff spot, then I guess we’ve been successful so far.”
The CeeBees will tangle with the Caribous in one best-of-seven semifinal next Saturday and Sunday at the Clarenville Events Centre, while the Royals and Cataracts meet in the other series which opens next weekend at Joe Byrne Memorial Stadium in Grand Falls-Windsor.
Cataracts 4, Blades 3
Martin Lapointe had a goal and an assist and A.J. Whiffen stopped 43 shots for the Cataracts. Chris Peach, David Philpott and Matt Quinn also scored for the winners, while Mitch Oake had two assists. Nathan Welton, Mark Roebothan and Andrew Pearcey replied. Chris Mooney had two assists and Roger Kennedy blocked 27 Grand Falls-Windsor shots.
Royals 3, CeeBees 2 (SO)
Steve North scored the winning goal in the shootut, and Scott Doody and Jake Easton had the goals in regulation time. Ryan Delaney and Matthew Thomey replied for C.B.N.
The CeeBees outshot the Royals 32-30. Goaltenders were Doug Jewer for C.B.N. and Brad Dyke for Corner Brook.
Cataracts 5, Blades 4
Andre Gill netted the game-winner, his second of the game, at 13:40 of the third period. Tyler Whitehead, David Philpott and Matt Quinn also scored for Grand Falls-Windsor. Replying for the homestanding Blades were Jason Picco, Ryan Bellows, Jason Hedges and Pearcey.
Mount Pearl outshot Grand Falls-Windsor 38-29. Goalies were Whiffen and Kennedy.
CeeBees 8, Royals 5
Defenceman Mike Dyke sparked C.B.N. with a goal and two assists, while singles came from Thomey, Ryan Delaney, Kyle Doucet, Ray Dalton, Jamie Tobin, Mark Tobin and Sean Wadden. Defenceman Doug O’Brien and Brian Barker both had two goals for the Royals. Jordan Bonneville scored once.
Jewer stood tall for the CeeBees with 41 saves. Chad Curlew was tested 37 times in the Corner Brook net.