By Gord Montgomery
Spruce Grove Examiner
Good teams find ways to win, but at the same time, good teams are also the ones that find different ways to win.
The Spruce Grove Saints showed they know how to win, and in different ways, over the past weekend as they ran their present unbeaten streak to seven games with a 1-0 win over Sherwood Park and then a dominating 6-1 triumph over the Canmore Eagles.
“In the Park game I liked our game, I liked our compete level,” said Grove coach Jason Mckee. “Our power play was a bit of a disappointment, no question, in that game (going 0-for-7) but other than that we did some good things and found a way to win.
“The next night, Cammore came in and were a little banged up and looked a little tired as well. We were only up one after the first but just continued to wear them down and started to get some more opportunities to put pucks in the back of the net.”
In Sherwood Park, Dallas Smith scored the game’s only goal in the third period, and Kenny Cameron picked up his second shutout in a row to keep the Saints win streak alive.
“Kenny’s been outstanding the last six months. Since he’s got here he might be our most improved player,” said Mckee. “He’s stopping the ones he’s supposed to and probably a couple he shouldn’t. He’s done a good job, his work ethic is where it needs to be, he’s got a good demeanor and the guys have confidence in him.”
As for Cameron, who was a back-up with the Medicine Hat Tigers of the WHL last year, he said this is the first time – ever – that’s he’s posted back-to-back zeroes.
“I’ve never had anything like that,” he said. “I usually get one or two a year but they’re pretty spaced out.”
His play of late, he continued, hinges greatly on his teammates.
“For starters, I think the team’s really come together,” he said in shifting the praise. “We’re meshing good and we’ve got a win streak going. Also, I’m at a point in the season where I’ve got a good routine going, I’m getting a lot of playing time and I’ve found a good groove.”
Cameron said he loves the workload he’s carried this year, having been in goal for 28 of the Saints 38 games, with a record of 18-6-2 and a goals-against average of 2.05. As a point of interest, for a long time the Saints have rotated goaltenders on a constant basis of one game in, one game out.
“I like it. I always like to play,” he said. “Last year I didn’t have the luxury to play; I was the back-up but this year I really love it. I love playing every night. Some people think it might get tiring but I don’t feel that way. I feel good and ready to go every night.”
The following night the Saints totally controlled the game against the South’s last place Eagles, out-shooting them 17-3 in the opening period, including peppering Canmore’s goalie with 14 shots in the opening frame before his team could muster one on the Saints net, where Nathan Park gave Cameron the night off and bumped his record to 5-3-2.
Mckee praised Park for his efforts in the rare start and noted his team flooded Canmore’s end in the first period in particular, although they didn’t score a lot.
“Of those 17 shots we had some real good chances; the puck just didn’t go in,” the bench boss noted. “In the second, I thought we created the same opportunities but scored. We’ve had a lot of grinding games this year, one goal games, so it was nice to see some guys get rewarded and get on the scoresheet.”
In the game, goals came from Dylan Richard (3), Cameron Hughes, Parker Mackay and Jarid Hauptman. Dustin Fostvelt had four helpers, while Corey Chorneyko and Mackay each had two.
Mckee credited his team with sticking to its game plan on the night, especially considering the slim lead they had after the domination they showed early on.
“All year we’ve had a team that’s created opportunities. We’re getting our shots. We’ve just got to stay the course; we’re a team that scores by committee. We don’t have two or three guys, or a number one line that stands out. We’ve got four lines that play similar styles. We don’t, and I’ll use the word ‘pretty’, score a lot of pretty goals but we find a way to score when we need to and that’s OK. That’s our identity and if at the end of the day we’re scoring enough to win, that’s all that matters.”
After tomorrow’s game the Saints are off for a break and that’s not what they need at this time riding a seven-game win streak.
“I think the biggest thing is, the rest is good. Physically and mentally, we’re playing well going into the break,” said Mckee. “We’ve got a week off then a week of preparation before we get going again,” because it will be tough to match how they’ve been going leading up to the Christmas break.
The Saints final pre-holiday game is tomorrow (Saturday, Dec. 22) when they host the Fort McMurray Oil Barons in a 7 p.m. contest at the Grant Fuhr Arena.