By Gord Montgomery
Spruce Grove Examiner
When everyone on a team gets on the same page, at the same time, good things happen. Just ask the Spruce Grove Saints, who all appear to be on the page of the hockey textbook that talks about winning streaks.
Coming off another unbeaten week, the Saints sit in second place in the tough North Division of the AJHL thanks in large part to their recent eight-game run, as they topped Drayton Valley 6-1, Sherwood Park 2-0 and Okotoks 3-1 in their games last week.
Both head coach Jason Mckee and newcomer Caleb Belter agree that these good results are from everyone working together on the same thing at the same time.
Mckee agreed a streak like this is a tough thing to manufacture regardless of what league a team plays in.
“More than anything we’ve got a belief in ourselves,” he began. “It’s a situation where we’ve got everyone on the same page and most nights we’re getting a consistent effort. That’s been the biggest turnaround. Our system play is getting better as we get used to each other but a consistent effort from night to night is the biggest thing. You don’t win any games in this league if you’re not prepared to play.”
Belter, who came to the Saints after four years with the WHL Prince George Cougars, said this is a fun group to be skating with and he likes where this team is headed.
“We had a bit of a rough start but the boys banded together and bought into a system the coaches are preaching. It’s about not playing a selfish game; playing a team game. Everyone’s buying in, working hard, and that shows with what? Eight wins in a row?” he said while out on a team publicity gig over the weekend.
The two weekend wins over two solid teams in the Park and Okotoks came about thanks in large part to the play of goaltender Kenny Cameron (two wins, one goal against), who got the nod as the AJHL Player of the Week, said Belter.
“Kenny’s been unreal for us. He’s been a wall back there and being smart defensively,” has helped in putting this important run together.
Mckee also had high praise for his No. 1 goaltender plus the defensive efforts of the entire team.
“It’s team defence and it starts with your goalie, your defenceman and your forwards. I don’t think it’s any one guy you can hinge that on. Guys are starting to figure out what we’re trying to do and we’re getting better at taking time and space away (from opponents) and when we do have some breakdowns, our goaltending has been there to help us out. You need that. You need your goalie to make some timely saves and they’re doing that. I think our guys are much more committed to the details of our d-zone which has resulted in us playing much better in our own end.”
Another huge factor in the recent roll, Mckee agreed, is the play of captain Corey Chorneyko who returned after a lengthy layoff due to injury. He’s been solid every night out and has also chipped in offensively with timely goals in crucial games.
“There’s no coincidence we’ve been on a run since he’s been back,” said the bench boss. “I think if he’s not the best, he’s one of the best players in our league. He’s a very good leader for us. He doesn’t make a lot of mistakes … and getting him back has been huge in the room and on the ice.”
As for joining this team where right now everything is pretty much going according to plan, Belter said, “We’re getting on track with that right now and making a push for top seed in the conference.”
The Saints host Lloydminster Wednesday. Their next home game is Wednesday, Oct. 30 when they host the Grande Prairie Storm.