Spruce Grove Saints a .500 hockey team after six games

The Spruce Grove Saints have split their season so far, sitting at 3-3, with an up-and-down effort level that sees the good (a 4-1 win over Bonnyville on Sept. 20) and the bad (a 3-1 loss to Sherwood Park on Sept. 21)

“I thought we played really well on Friday night against Bonnyville,” said head coach Jason Mckee. “I thought our forecheck was really good. We created some turnovers, got some pucks to the net and through our hard work and intensity, it created some opportunities and we were able to capitalize on it.

“Our special teams were very good that night as well.”

Forward Parker Mackay scored a goal and added an assist against Bonnyville, and the 19-year-old now has seven points on the season, tied for the team lead.

Mckee said that the right-hander from Irma, Alta., will play a key role for the team this season.

“(Parker Mackay) has had a tremendous start, there’s no question, he’s a player that plays in all situations for us,” Mckee said. “He’s a guy we look to for leadership. He’s very subtle in the things he does, he’s a sound player, he’s very reliable out there and he’s always in a very good position, which allows him to create offence and play good defence, when you do that you make yourself a real good 200-foot player and he’s done that so far for us this year.”

But despite the positive energy of a lop-sided victory over Bonnyville, the team came back down to earth the next night against Sherwood Park, and Mckee said the effort was lacking.

“I’m not sure it’s how much they did or how little we did,” he said. “I thought they played well and we didn’t. I think a combination of the two (and that) was the result we deserved. They’ve got good depth there, there’s no question, good goaltending and they’ve got good team speed. I thought they played well, and they were the better team and deserved to win on that night.

“I didn’t like our effort at all, from start to finish, there weren’t a lot of positives to take from that game. I think we got what we deserved on that night.”

If there was one positive to pull out of that debacle, it was the team’s efficient penalty-killing unit.

Against Sherwood Park, the Saints killed off all eight man-advantage situations.

“Our PK has been good all year,” Mckee said. “Our guys understand what we’re trying to do. It’s always changing, there’s some good power plays out there, so you want to be as prepared as possible, but some of the details of our PK will never change and I think we’ve done a good job with those details and it’s allowed us to kill a lot of penalties and try to gain momentum off of that. That was probably the one bright spot, if there was one, and that’s been a strength so far this year.”

By Thomas Miller, Spruce Grove Examiner/Stony Plain Reporter