Sports, when you come right down to it, are all about numbers. Games won. Goals. Assists. Penalty minutes and so on and so forth.
For the Spruce Grove Saints, the numbers have all been coming up the right way in the recent past as they put three more wins into the record book by having the biggest number on the board at the end of each game.
In turn, they downed the Drumheller Dragons 5-4, the Whitecourt Wolverines 3-1 and the Fort McMurray Oil Barons 4-0 to run their seasonal number to 17-2. In the process, they raised their league-leading number of goals scored to 87 and their plus/minus rating to another league leading +53.
Not bad numbers. Not bad at all.
In their latest win, the numbers were again all in the favour of the Saints, as they dominated the Oil Barons for the vast majority of the game, although they did have trouble beating their netminder, Ravi Dattani, who faced 50 shots in the loss. His night was better than it looked though, as he gave up two goals in the final three minutes.
The better numbers on this night though belonged to Saints goalie Brett Zarowny, who faced 17 shots in recording his third shutout of the season in just his 10th start. He came up huge for his club when they were two men short for 1:30 in the middle of the final frame, only leading by 2-0 at the time.
“That (penalty) kill was very impressive,” head coach Jason McKee noted of the way his PK unit shut down lanes and how his goaltender took away any open net from the Oil Barons. “It actually moved momentum in our favour. If they scored there, it could have gone the other way.”
As for the quiet times that preceded the penalty kill frenzy in those final minutes, Zarowny said it’s key to stay focused on what’s happening.
“It’s tough,” he said of the lack of early shots, seeing only 11 through 40 minutes. “It happens a lot being on a good team. You take one shot at a time, keep your focus. You don’t think about what’s going on after the game or going on in between periods. You just focus on the play.”
For his team on this night, Zarowny’s focus led to another shutout and another win. While he’s not yet challenging the team record for zeroes in a season – that’s seven held by Vincenzo Marozzi – it is a number that is maybe starting to bounce around in Zarowny’s mind although he says it’s not. You see, there is still two-thirds of a season left meaning he has at least 20 more games to start, barring any unforeseen circumstances.
“It definitely would be nice to be recognized for something like that,” Zarowny agreed of such a team record. “But, I owe the three shutouts to the boys in there (dressing room). They battle hard for me every day and it would be more of a team record. It’s not really in my mind and if it happens, it happens. I’m just going for wins at the end of the night.”
As for how the goaltenders will be used going forward, McKee noted there is no reason to stop the rotation basis the team has used since day one. And again, it comes down to numbers.
“It’s been good. The biggest thing is when you get home late (after a road game) you can bring a fresh goalie in. I think (playing the same guy) in back-to-back nights, the save percentage tends to go down a little bit. I’ve said it all year, we’re fortunate to have two really good guys.”
As for Zarowny, he says any goalie is going to say he’d love to play every game, but he under-stands the rotation equation and since it’s been so successful, no one is complaining.
“First of all, Matt’s (Saints other tender Murray) a really good goalie, he’s had a really good year and he’s a got a great future in front of him. Rotating, obviously you want to be in the net as much as you can but this is a really good system for us. We both battle each other in practice each day and it’s been great so far.”
Interestingly enough, Zarowny brought up a number on his own – his age – and how going one-in, one-out will help him later in the year.
“I’d like to play as much as I can, you know, but with the rotation the way it is I think it’s good. Down the stretch, it’s going to be a bit easier on the legs, especially being a 20 year old, you start to feel it a little bit. It’s nice because if one of us ever goes down, the other is ready. It’s good.”
Put on the spot about Zarowny’s shutout number so far, and if he could possibly challenge that old team mark, McKee was cautious.
“it’s hard to say. I don’t want to look too far ahead but he is in a pretty good groove right now so hopefully he can keep it going. We just need our goalies to stop the ones you expect and maybe the odd one they shouldn’t. When they’re stopping those, it gives us the chance to win,” much as the numbers show the Saints have been doing on a regular basis so far this year.
Scoring for the Saints in the wins were Issac Farrah, Trey Fix-Wolansky, Cole Nicholson (2 in-cluding the winner) and Tyler Morrison in the Drumheller game; Nicholson, Tyler Busch (GWG), and Fix-Wolansky against Whitecourt; and Fix-Wolansky (game-winner), Riley Simpson, Brandon Biro and Nicolas Corral in the Fort McMurray win.
The Saints are back in action at home on Saturday, Oct. 31 when they host the Whitecourt Wol-verines in the tail end of a home-and-home weekend series looking to boos their league best numbers yet again.