Saints show they can win in variety of ways
Wins come in many different shapes and sizes, much like they did for the Spruce Grove Saints over the past weekend.
In their first of two games on home ice, the Saints gave up the first and last goals to the Grande Prairie Storm, but in between those, they scored four unanswered markers, all in the second period, to win 4-2.
The next night, against the Brooks Bandits, the Saints themselves opened and closed the scoring in a great 2-1 extra-extra time win over the team they downed in last year’s league final to run their season’s record to 14-2.
Speaking of the first win, where the Saints badly out-shot the Storm in the opening period but couldn’t score, coach Jason McKee noted their opponents put up a good battle.
“I give Grande Prairie credit. They play a simple, hard game and their goalie made some good saves. It was good to get through that one and have some momentum going into Saturday against a real good team, a team that doesn’t make a lot of mistakes.”
In the win over the Storm, the Saints controlled the vast majority of play, out-shooting the visitors 46-29. Goals went to Colton Leiter, Tyler Busch, Josh Harris and Brandon Biro while goalie Brett Zarowny upped his record to 7-1 and lowered his GAA to 1.25.
The second game turned into a goaltending battle between the Saints Matthew Murray and the Bandits Josh Davies. Both turned in a number of great saves to have regulation time end 1-1. Davies was particularly sharp in OT, stopping all four shots he faced while Murray simply looked on as his skaters kept the Bandits at bay.
In the ensuring shoot-out, Murray posted the win for his team to go to 7-1 on the season stopping three of four shots. The Saints got a goal from Leiter and then Biro wrapped things up on their fourth shot. Connor James had the lone goal for the home team in regulation time, when he blasted a slap shot home from the point midway through the second period.
Of that win, McKee agreed it was hauntingly familiar to last year’s playoff series between the two teams and was a big win this season.
“It had a real good atmosphere, intense, and the players were going at it pretty hard both ways. Both teams defended well, both goalies played well. It was real good hockey, fast, no stupidity out there. I’m sure it was fun for the fans to watch and it was good for us to come out on top.”
In response to why he held Biro, who sits third in league scoring, back until the fourth shooter, McKee said there were a couple of reasons for that.
“We just kind of go on feel. We practice it every day. The first two guys (Jake) Mykitiuk (who is ninth in league scoring and hit the cross bar with his attempt) and Leiter (who scored) have done it in the past and had success. We kind of went off the board with (rookie Jack) Hamly as our third guy but he’s been pretty good in practice. I thought he had it, but their goalie made a really good save.
“The other part was to give Brandon a breather — he’d just gotten off the ice from overtime and playing a lot of minutes. We didn’t want him shooting when he was tired. We just wanted him to catch his breath.”
And after Murray stopped Brooks’ fourth shooter and Biro regained his wind, he stole the spotlight with the game winner on his pretty rooftop backhand shot that had the crowd leaving the rink in a good mood.
If there was one slightly sour note in the two wins, it was the continued struggle of the power play unit to score. They netted only one goal in 10 tries over the two games, that one their first goal of the two games.
“Obviously we want to have more success on that. We’ll keep working on that,” said McKee, who noted his guys only missed scoring one or two extra man goals more because they missed the net with their shots. “We were trying to execute what we have been practicing and the puck just didn’t go in. As long as you’re creating chances, that’s the biggest thing.”
The Saints now have another full week as they hosted Drumheller on Wednesday, then travel to Whitecourt Friday and have Fort McMurray in town on Saturday, Oct. 24.