While Saints win two more, loss could hurt in the end
The best way to get over a tough loss is to simply go out and win the next game. That’s what the Spruce Grove Saints did last week, but that loss, in the middle of a three game set, could prove costly coming down the stretch.
The Saints hammered out wins of 7-0 over the Drayton Valley Thunder and 4-1 over the Grande Prairie Storm, but a 5-4 loss to the Lloydminster Bobcats, a game the Saints led 4-2 after 40 minutes, was definitely one that got away.
“I think you can look at it two ways — be down on ourselves thinking we played bad or you can try to learn from it and try to get better for the next day,” Brandon Biro said of the lone loss following the Storm game. “We had a good talk about it, that third period (in Lloydminster), and we built off that today.”
Of giving up the lead by allowing three unanswered third period goal, Biro said the ‘Cats simply got on a roll much as the Saints had been early on, and sometimes there’s just no stopping a good hockey team.
“I think we stopped competing, got a little complacent being up a couple of goals,” he honestly responded. “We sat back too much, let them take the play to us. I think we’ve kind of done that more than we’d like to, sitting back instead of pushing the pace.”
The Saints were all about pushing the pace in the week’s opening game vs. Drayton Valley as they scored three times in each of the first two periods and net minder Ravi Dattani boosted his record with the Saints to 5-0-1 with the shutout. Goals came from Cole Nicholson (2), Tyler Busch with the game winner, Ryan Cox, Brendan Holterhus, Dondre Watson and Cole Plonikoff.
In Lloydminster, Biro led the offensive charge with a pair of goals while Isaac Farah and Trey Fix-Wolansky and singles.
Returning home for the last game of a busy week, the Saints and Storm hooked up in a somewhat scrambly game although the home side dominated play. They out-shot the Storm 47-27 but had to work hard to come away with the important two points.
Biro agreed that perhaps it was best his side didn’t simply roll over the Storm, like many of the 700-plus fans expected as they entered the rink. The Saints led 1-0 after 20 minutes and 3-1 after 40, thanks largely to the Storm’s goaltending and a number of missed opportunities by the Saints.
“For sure, especially since down the street nothing is going to come easy,” Biro commented about it being a good thing his side had to dig deep to win the game.
As for this being a difficult game to play mentally coming off the tough loss the night before, Biro responded, “Yes and no. I think it’s obviously tough because you’re pretty drained after a tough loss like that but it’s good we got a chance to redeem ourselves after giving up a lead like that.”
In the Storm game, Biro again struck for two goals including the game-winner, while singles came off the sticks of Nicolas Correale and Ian Mitchell.
Going forward, with only a half dozen game left in the regular season, Biro said no one can afford to look too far ahead even though they are in a battle with the Brooks Bandits for the overall title in the AJHL. At the same time, the North Division title still isn’t secure as they hold a 10-point lead over Whitecourt, but the Wolverines have three games in hand.
“You just take it one game at a time. Every game your goal is to win two points. We have some time off so we’ll use our practices to improve the areas we need to improve on and just focus on two points every night,” he explained.
On a more personal note, Biro said he’s enjoying his success since coming back from a leg injury in the first half of the season. He’s won a gold meal with Team Canada West in the Jr. A Challenge and played in the Prospects Game, has been name AJHL Player of the Month for January while lightning it up on the scoresheet with 26 goals and 21 helpers in only 32 of the Saints 51 games.
“It’s just getting used to structure, getting more comfortable with the puck, getting used to playing with some guys helps. Obviously it’s a good group of guys. No matter who you’re playing with, it’s good,” and that’s exactly what the Saints will have to be as they enter the final month of the regular season.
The Saints are on the road unitl Family Day, when they'll host the Whitecourt Wolverines in what could prove to be a huge game, at 2pm at the Grant Fuhr Arena. Admission that day is only $5.