AESHL final starts Wednesday in Harbour Grace: CeeBees host Eagles in Game 1

(Feb. 28, 2017) — A berth in the prestigious Herder Memorial Trophy championship series is on the line when the Avalon East Senior Hockey League final gets underway Wednesday night.

Game 1 of the circuit’s best-of-seven championship series between the Harbour Grace Ocean Enterprises CeeBee Stars and Tapper’s Northeast Eagles is set for 7:30 p.m. at the Danny Cleary Community Centre (DCCC).

The top-seeded CeeBees took four of the teams’ five meetings in the regular season, with two games — including an overtime victory — being decided by one goal. While the CeeBees may have dominated the regular season, having been dealt one of their three losses courtesy the Eagles — a shutout of their potent offense, no less — there’s a clear respect for the second-seeded club.

“The Eagles have a lot of skill and leadership, guys that have won at this level and higher,” coach Peter George said. “From strong goaltending and defence to skilled forwards, they certainly will be very hard to beat. They can bury you if you take a shift off. Consistency will be a major factor in this series.”

Behind the Northeast bench, coach Doug Jackman admits the CeeBees were a “tough team to break,” but he’s proud of how his team performed in their matchups.

“But the reality is they found ways to win all year and that's what good teams do. There's no doubt they're a talented hard working team,” Jackman states.

A great deal of the CeeBees’ success this season and through the first round of the playoffs started from the goal out, where goaltender A.J. Whiffen was rock solid.

Jackman says that while the Eagles’ plan of attack won’t be singularly aimed at Whiffen, the star netminder has to be a focal point for his team’s efforts.

“Our focus will be on getting to him one game at a time,” explains Jackman. “We can't be worried about beating him in four games, we have to get the first one and then we go from there.”

George recognizes the importance Whiffen, a multiple-Herder winner, has played in the CeeBees’ stellar season, but insists that the skaters in front of him, which include a cast of first-year players and senior hockey veterans, have made the puckstop’s job easier by consistently being among the league’s leading scorers all season.

“Teams have been quite even all year, and when you accumulate a record
similar to ours I think teams bring a little extra against you every night, “ states George. “We always say that in order for us to win everyone has to be at their best, from (Whiffen), (Matthew) Thomey, (Robert) Slaney, (Sam) Roberts, to our first-year guys in and out of the line-up, to our coaches and trainers. It takes a full team effort to win.”

The rest of the series schedule is as follows:

Game 2
• Fri. Mar. 3, 8 p.m., Jack Byrne Arena (JBA), CeeBees at Eagles
Game 3
• Sat. Mar. 4, 7:30 p.m., DCCC, Eagles at CeeBees
Game 4
• Fri. Mar. 10, 8 p.m., JBA, CeeBees at Eagles
Game 5 (if necessary)
• Sat. Mar. 11, 7:30 p.m., DCCC, Eagles at CeeBees
Game 6 (if necessary)
• Fri. Mar. 17, 8 p.m., JBA, CeeBees at Eagles
Game 7 (if necessary)
• Sat. Mar. 18, 8:30 p.m., DCCC, Eagles at CeeBees

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