Saints stay perfect through first 10 games
It’s been a perfect start to the 2015-16 season. So perfect in fact, even one of the team’s toughest critics, head coach Jason McKee, is saying this could well be their best start ever.
“I’d have to go back and check myself, I’m not sure,” he noted of the flawless start perhaps being the first time the Spruce Grove Saints have posted such a mark. During that span the Saints have out-scored their opponents 53-13 for a plus/minus rating of +40, a rating that is 26 goals better than the closest team, Okotoks.
“As good a start as we’ve had, it’s a snapshot of the year but at the same time, it’s a pretty good snapshot right now and you’ll take points any time you can get them. We’re definitely happy to be 10-and-oh,” cautioned McKee.
“I didn’t foresee us being 10-and-oh to start but we’ll definitely take it,” the bench boss continued. “We had some tight games that could have gone either way but the guys found ways to win those games. I think as the wins started to come the confidence continued to grow and I think that’s been a big part of it. Our group is confident right now. They believe in each other and that’s definitely a good thing to have early in the year.”
Good teams find ways to win hockey games and good teams win the close ones more often than not thanks to everyone pitching in. To date, that’s been exactly the case here especially by the last line of defence.
“Our goaltending has been very, very consistent,” McKee said of the tandem of Brett Zarowny (.977 save percentage) and Matthew Murray (.930). “Through the first 10 games our defensive game has been very sound and our defensemen are a big part of that. But playing teams, defence is the five guys on the ice and we’ve done a good job of doing all the little things. And when we’ve made mistakes, our goalies have made some real big saves for us at key moments.”
In their last three outings the Saints have surrendered but three goals — a 4-1 win over Lloydminster in their barn than two wins at the Showcase Weekend in Camrose, 5-1 over Brooks and 4-1 vs the Olds Grizzlys.
The latter two wins also marked a first for the Saints – the first time they’ve gone unbeaten in the Showcase Weekend – which had been played in the Grove for the past several seasons.
“We’ve had our struggles in years past at the Showcase, especially the first game,” McKee agreed. “This year, we had success and played well. I don’t know if that was a venue change, or what.”
“The Showcase is a good thing for our league, for the players. It was well attended by the scouts and our guys got exposure. It was nice for the guys to play well and get a couple of wins. Individually, I thought guys did a real good job and were consistent over the weekend.”
As for that win In Lloydminster, a game that pitted the top two ranked teams in the country, McKee said that was a case of hanging on early and getting re-focused during the first intermission.
“They’re a very good team. A big, strong, physical team,” McKee said of the Bobcats, who took their first loss of the year in that game. “We did a good job of weathering the storm early. They came at us hard and they were definitely the better team early. Brett started in goal for us and he was outstanding throughout the whole night but was really, really god early. We got a late goal in the first that gave us momentum but the big thing was getting into the dressing room and re-setting after the first. From that point on, we played a much better game.”
McKee said the Bobcats fed off the enthusiasm of their fans and that’s something he hopes to see Wednesday (Oct. 7) when the Bobcats pay a visit to the Grant Fuhr Arena.
“We always love to have the crowd give our guys momentum. These are obviously the top two teams in the league (and the country) and we hope to have as much support as possible, for sure.”
As for what he sees as a scenario in this rematch, McKee noted space will be at a premium, both on the ice and he hopes, in the stands.
“There won’t be a lot of free ice out there at both ends; everything will have to be earned. There will be a lot of motivated players on both sides which will make for a very good hockey game.”
Things get underway at 7 p.m. as the Saints look to continue to re-write the team’s history books with what has been their best start ever.