Less than 24 hours after losing a duel with his Clarenville Caribou' counterpart Jason Churchill, Conception Bay North CeeBee Stars' goalie Freddy Diamond stole the spotlight in Game 2 of The Telegram Herder Memorial Trophy Championship Series Sunday.
The veteran keeper stopped 41 shots - 25 in the second period alone - as the CeeBees bounced back with a 4-1 win at the Clarenville Events Centre, knotting the best-of-seven provincial senior hockey final at 1-1.
The West Coast Senior Hockey League champion Caribous won 4-2 Saturday as the two teams began a reprise of last year's Herder final, which saw Clarenville defeat C.B.N. in five games.
The series now moves to Mile One Centre in St. John's, where the Avalon East champion CeeBees will be the home team in games Friday (7:30 p.m.), Saturday (7:30 p.m.) and Sunday (2 p.m.).
"We were pretty frustrated with the way last season ended, especially Freddy. He felt he could have played better in the Herder," CeeBees' forward Chris Sparkes said Sunday.
"You could see from the first practice we had this year that Freddy Diamond was focused on coming back to the Herder and taking us to the end of the road. We've got him back and it' time for him to take over.
"I think he's going to do that."
Clarenville head coach Randy Pearcey couldn't help but be impressed with Diamond's play Sunday, especially after the Caribous got on the scoreboard with a goal early in the middle frame.
"We walked all over them for 10 minutes, but he barred the door," said Pearcey.
Diamond's play was part of what appears to be a marked improvement in the CeeBees' play in this year's final. That includes the ability to keep pace with a quick Caribous team.
"We lost 11 bodies from last year, a lot of the older guys," explained C.B.N. blueliner Mike Dyke.
"But with the depth of the team last year, we had a lot of guys willing to step in there this season. We have a lot of young legs and on the big ice especially, that shows.
"We're all in great shape."
Pearcey gives the CeeBees full credit for limiting the Caribous' ability to generate offence on Sunday.
"They forechecked us to death and played a little trap in the neutral zone," he said. "We had way too much difficulty getting the puck out of our zone."
Down the stretch and holding on to a two -goal lead, the CeeBees were able to generate a number of odd-man rushes, a by-product of the Caribous trying too hard to generate offence while sacrificing defence, according to Pearcey.
A grueling first period saw both teams heavily penalized, meaning that for much of the opening 20 minutes, one side or another was either working the power play or penalty kill - with a few instances of four-on-three play and several minutes of four-on-four action scattered throughout.
All that special teams play took a toll on some of the Caribous' top players, said Pearcey.
"If you log too much ice time early in the game, it'll come back to bite you in the ass late in the game," he said.
"You want to get everyone on your bench into the game. The same guys we use on the PP, we use on the PK. You don't want to burn them out halfway through the first period."
The CeeBees' David Duffett opened the scoring, finishing off a Paul Brown rebound. Steve Greeley made it 2-0 with one minute remaining in the opening frame.
The Caribous got their lone goal a couple of minutes into the second when Grant Kenny's wrister from the hash marks to the right of Diamond found its way into the net.
Near the midway point of the period, Daniel Sparkes restored the CeeBees' two-goal lead with a shot from the boards, that seemed to surprise Churchill, the all-star goalie and West Coast league's MVP.
After applying pressure to start the third, Sparkes got the CeeBees' fourth marker.
"After the loss (Saturday), we had one thing on our mind and that was to get the split," Dyke said following the game.
"We feel we played well enough to have two games this weekend, but we're definitely OK with the split and going to our home ice at Mile One."
Clarenville 4, C.B.N. 2 (Saturday)
At Clarenville, Chris Mooney scored twice and Churchill turned aside 36 shots to lead the Caribous to a Game 1 win.
Import Ryan Lauzon scored once and set up another for the Caribous. Blueliner Fred Earle had the other goal for the home side.
For the CeeBees, Mark Tobin and Matthew Thomey each had a goal and a helper. Chris Sparkes assisted on both C.B.N. goals.
Diamond turned aside 26 shots in the loss.
The game turned ugly with five minutes to play resulting in a handful of penalties to both sides and a pair of fights, including a bout between heavyweights Graham Jackman from C.B.N. and Clarenville's Richard Paul, after which fans littered the ice with a hundred or more "Go Caribous Go" signs.
Pearcey commented on the end of Saturday's game following Game 2.
"When they got behind a couple of goals and saw they couldn't do anything about it, there were some hacks and whacks that weren't necessary," he said of slashes on Lauzon and Andrew Pearcey.
"If I've got five minutes left in the game and I'm down by two, I'm still thinking I can come back. They (the CeeBees) didn't do that and instead targeted certain players."