Freaky Friday Night and Winning Saturday
Friday, January 13th the Pioneers held the Tomahawks to a tight game, eventually losing 8-4 and staying fairly even in shots 39-33. A hard hitting and physical first period had the Tomahawks leading 3-1 after the first period with the lone Pioneers goal coming from L'Hirondelle. The second period seemed like it might be getting away from the Pioneers as they let in three unanswered before getting one back by Ethan Zago leading into the second intermission. The third period was much more even as the Pioneers scored two by Tyrick Blackhawk and Oliver Lovely. The Tomahawks seemed to be surprised at the improvement of the Pioneers and there were a number of dust ups after the whistle.
Despite the loss, Coach Arsenault was fairly positive post game. When asked how he gets his players prepared for these big games he said, "My messaging is always about micro-goals - focusing on the small things and what we do have control of. Consistency is what we strive for. We are getting better every day and we are starting to see the success on the ice and starting to win games. The process of a complete rebuild is not overnight. Tonight, we competed and did well against a top team in this league. It is humbling to play teams with so much talent as we grow."
The next night was the ever popular match up against the Slave Lake IceDogs. Gibbons dominated the majority of the game outshooting the IceDogs 83-25! The first period was fast paced and high scoring with the teams trading leads and heading into the first intermission tied at three. The Pioneers goals came from Bishop and Blackhawk (2), who had a standout night with a hat trick, 4 point night and second star of the game. "The key to my scoring tonight was being in the right spot at the right time. I also benefited from planting my feet in front of the net."
The second period was much quieter goal wise with each team finding the back of the net once but scoring chances and shots still favoured the Pioneers with 27 to the IceDogs 7. The Pioneers looked like they were going to run away with the third with goals from St. Arnaud, Blackhawk and Cunningham to lead 7-4 midway through the frame. Unfortunately, a little complacency let Slave Lake crawl back late in the game but the Pioneers hung on for the eventual win 7-6.
Another standout player for the Pioneers was Oliver Lovely with 4 assists on the night to make 8 total for the season thus far despite only joining the team a few games before the holidays. Asked about how he has been able to find chemistry so quickly with his teammates and how he's fitting in to the team Lovely said, "Finding chemistry with my teammates comes from just practicing with them and being involved in the dressing room. We've got a great team this year and I have hopes for us to go on further. The new addition of the staff team has greatly improved this team from last year and is continuing to improve the Pioneers as a team on and off the ice which is amazing for the community. I can't wait to see how the Pioneers evolve over the years. From teammates to the coaches to the town of Gibbons, everything has been amazing for me to improve as a player and as a person. We have an amazing fan base. All in all, I've been enjoying my time here in Gibbons."
The team already has more wins than last year and has had a great start to the second half of the season so far. "0.500 after Christmas has been nice. I like that we are getting shots, playing physical and playing with more pace." The defensive zone, Arsenault's specialty as a player, still needs improvement and will be an ongoing focus. "D-zone coverage has been a weak point all season. We are working on improving our awareness and IQ. There has been small progress but we need to be better in D-zone to compete against the top teams in the league." Blackhawk summarized how the team is feeling right now, "Our beliefs are high right now and we just need to keep putting the work in. Once we come along, we all believe that we're going to be a team that pushes back hard leading up to the playoffs".
As always, check out your Pioneers every Friday and Saturday night as they make a push for the West Division playoffs!