There’s always two sides to every story. Take for example, the feelings of Spruce Grove Saints bench boss Bram Stephen after his club had downed the Whitecourt Wolverines 3-2 in OT and 3-1 to open their new season.
Asked how important it was for the Saints to get off to a good start like this, especially considering they had a new coach, Stephen replied, “I was kind of joking with my assistant coaches from MacEwan (his former job in the ACAC with the Griffins). They texted me last night (after the first win) because when we got to MacEwan the first time, it was 14 games without a win!”
The new head man didn’t have to wait anywhere near that long to post his initial ‘W’ as his guys brought home all the points available on the opening weekend. Stephen continued speaking about the importance of those victories and the adjustment to a new leader.
“It helps with the buy-in, for sure. From my standpoint though it’s games one and two of a 60 game schedule and while the wins are nice to have, and it’s a reward for the boys with the work we’re putting in, we’re after a lot bigger things.”
No one is saying these two wins weren’t big though. In the opener, Austin Parameter, Josh Harris and Logan Ganie, with the OT winner, had the Saints markers while Nolan Kent was sharp in goal, stopping all but two of 40 shots.
The next night, in a game the home side dominated early jumping to a 2-0 first period lead, Ganie, Nick Leyer and Chris Van Os-Shaw had the tallies. This time though, the defensive game was much better as Kent faced only 19 total shots, and a measly eight through 40 minutes.
Of that turnaround in their own end, Stephen noted, “I think part of it is a fitness level. I’ve always thought when you’re playing a back-to-back it’s actually harder to play (the second night) on the road because you’re on the bus while the other team’s going to bed so I think at this level that’s something that really stood out to me.”
A big part of the second night win was that the on-ice crew had things straightened out a bit in their own end of the rink.
“We played a much cleaner north-south game. Our forwards were quicker and we managed pucks much better, too,” Stephen commented.
Josh Harris, the captain for the Saints this year, also expressed how pleased he was with the weekend wins as he knows all about the rivalry between these two clubs.
“I thought it was huge. It was a great four points. We did a really good job yesterday and it’s not an easy place to play,” he said of the opening night victory in Whitecourt, where the Saints took the steam out of the evening and Wolverines’ North Division championship banner raising night. “Now, we’ve just got to keep going this next weekend.”
As for adjusting to a new coach, a new systems and new teammates, Harris says everything has been meshing well to this point and he doesn’t see that coming to an end anytime soon.
“We’ve been doing a lot of team building and I don’t think that’s going to stop.”
So while he’s pleased he started with wins rather than losses, Stephen added a codicil to all he had to say.
“There are lots of areas for improvement but we are off to a good start,” or at least one that’s much better than the beginning to his college coaching days.
The Saints are back in action for two home games this coming weekend, Sept. 22 - 23, when they host the Drumheller Dragons on Saturday and the Bonnyville Pontiacs the next night. Both games are at the Grant Fuhr Arena and begin at 7 p.m.
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