By Gord Montgomery
Spruce Grove Examiner
If only the stock market were as consistent as the last week for the Spruce Grove Saints. One day up, the next day down to basically come out even at the end.
That was the case for the Spruce Grove Saints over the past weekend as a pair of games against their closest rival in the tightly-packed AJHL North Division, the Grande Prairie Storm, resulted in a win for each team.
The Saints opened the critical two-game set with a well-deserved 3-2 victory before falling to the Storm the next night, 6-3.
“I thought we played very well on Friday and were OK on Saturday but I thought they (Storm) played much better on Saturday,” Saints coach Jason Mckee stated.
While they lost by three in that second outing, the Saints did have a chance to walk away with four points instead of two, the coach continued. He said his club came close to scoring the tying goal when they trailed 4-3 late in the second period. They didn’t though and the Storm made them pay in the end.
“We pushed real hard the first 10 minutes of the third but their goalie made key saves at key times. We continued to push and they got an odd-man rush where they scored to make it 5-3 and that was kind of the end of the game. It was close. We just needed one to go in and the result might have been different.”
In the opening game when they limited Grande Prairie to two goals, Mckee said his club was strong right off the hop. They were out-shooting their hosts 10-1 early and were pressing, forcing mistakes.
“We carried that momentum through,” he noted. “Then we took a couple of penalties that got us in trouble and caused us to lose that momentum but the guys battled hard all night and came away with the win.
“The next night, I thought their start was much better than ours and we were battling from behind all night. Their goalie played well and we just couldn’t get that tying goal. They came out, played real hard off the start. Our guys figured it out after the first 10, but we were playing catch-up all game.”
Mckee felt his team’s pre-game preparation was adequate – it was more a case of not having everyone ready to go that night that resulted in the sluggish beginning.
“I think it was just a choice as a group. The first 10 minutes we just weren’t willing to get involved, do the things we needed to. Like I said, we quickly figured out they were coming much harder,” but the team was unable to re-capture the flow that led them to the first game win.
If anything good came of this weekend series, it was that the past means little to nothing the next night, especially in the AJHL North.
“It’s a good learning lesson. It was very similar to playoffs where you play two games in someone’s building and the outcome of the first game really had no effect on the next night. It was good lesson for our guys to learn. Just because you played well the night before, you still have to play well again to have success,” the Grove coach noted.
Mckee agreed it would have been nice to come home with two wins but all the same, one was better than nothing and that one win showed some good things.
“Again, I really liked our game Friday. I liked our approach going into that game. The next night, our resolve was there. They got up on us a couple of times and we battled back and had opportunities to tie it. It just didn’t go in. When it was all said and done, it was a pretty good weekend for our club.
“It was a good battle, two good teams, and at the end I guess we’re in the same spot we were going in.”
The Saints played host to the Fort McMurray Oil Barons on Wednesday night after press deadline and then welcome in the Calgary Canucks for a rare Sunday afternoon game at 2 p.m. at the Grant Fuhr Arena.