It wasn't supposed to play out this way. With the departure of its top line, many expected the end of the Conception Bay North CeeBee Stars' dominance in the Bud Light Avalon East Senior Hockey League.
They weren't supposed to be as potent offensively.
They weren't supposed to have a 22 per cent power play.
They weren't supposed to finish first overall.
They simply weren't supposed to be this good.
But they are, as the Southern Shore Ocean Choice Breakers can attest after dropping the first two games of the league final to C.B.N. last weekend.
"They've always had a hard-working team," Southern Shore forward Dale Sullivan says of the CeeBees, whom the Breakers have battled in each of the last six league finals.
"With the big guns out, I guess the rest of the team worked harder."
The big guns - Ryan and Keith Delaney and sniper Sean Wadden - joined the West Coast league's Grand falls-Windsor Cataracts last fall and were replaced by a unit consisting of Brent Lynch, Chris Sparkes and Matthew Thomey. Lynch was later replaced by former Tampa Bay Lightning draft pick Mark Tobin.
"I don't know if they're as dangerous offensively (as the Delaneys an Wadden), but they play both ends of the ice really well," Sullivan says. "They're definitely a solid first line."
The Shore dropped a hard-fought 2-0 contest at home on Sunday, a night after being bested 7-3 at the CeeBees' barn in Harbour Grace.
"It was a poor effort on our behalf," Sullivan says of the opener. "We didn't come out with the game we wanted."
In the Breakers' defence, they were without a physical and emotional leader in Donny Gosse. The big blueliner's father-in-law passed away just hours before Game 1.
Sullivan says the captain brings with him "a sense of calm."
"He keeps guys in check and controls the play. When he's not there, some other guys are maybe trying too hard to pick up the slack."
Gosse will be back in the Breakers' lineup Saturday when they roll into S.W. Moores Memorial Stadium for Game 3. Game time is 7:30 p.m.
"Even though we're down a couple of games, it takes four to win a series," Sullivan insists.
"We're not out of it."
Game 4 goes Sunday, 5:30 p.m., at the Southern Shore Arena in Mobile.
Cats, 'Bous resume series Saturday
After splitting the opening games of the Bud Light West Coast Senior Hockey League final in Clarenville last weekend, the Caribous and Cataracts resume hostilities in Grand Falls-Windsor this weekend.
The Catracts won 5-1 at the Clarenville Events Centre Saturday, but the 'Bous bounced back with a 3-2 win there on Sunday.
Game 3 is set for Saturday, 7:30 p.m., at Joe Byrne Memorial Arena. Game 4 goes 2 p.m. Sunday.