The Pioneers stunned the Eagles with Kaden Chamzuk scoring first Friday night and bringing some excitement to the rink with hope the team could hold their own against one of the divisions best. The Eagles stormed back two mins later and didn’t look back scoring six more in the first and prompting Nate Williams to come in as relief for Meric Larson. The Pioneers got one more from L’Hirondelle but still headed to the break down 6-2 wondering what happened. Chamzuk said of the first period collapse, "I think the boys were just a little too excited and let off the gas a little bit. I believe if we can play how we came out flying in that game, we will have good success in the final games and starting into playoffs."
When asked about the first period, coach Arsenault said, "We kind of got off our game plan after we scored. Our team can be really inconsistent. We have a tendency when we get up by one to go away from the game plan. But then we can surge in the third. It's all about consistency and that is something we lack. We have a really young team and the consistency is something that we are working on currently but it is not an overnight thing. It will take a couple of seasons before we get to be where we want to be. It is all just growing pains." "
The second period was mostly all Eagles outshooting the Pioneers 16-7 and getting on the board three more times.
The Pioneers finally came into their own in the third with a fairly even period matching the Eagles in scoring with goals from Chamzuk and Zago but outshooting the guys from Edson 13-7. Chamzuk said "It feels good to finally get a couple points on the board and finally get my feet under me again. You better believe I'm just going to keep pushing my hardest to get the team a win."
Nate Williams made 26 saves after entering the game after 13 mins. Williams said of coming in to the game early, "As a goalie when you're not starting that game, you have to be prepared to go in at any time whether your goalie partner is hurt or getting pulled. Personally, when I'm given the go ahead to go in the net, it comes as a rush to me and I'm instantly ready to go."
Although the Pioneers eventually lost this one 11-4 the third period shows some hope for the possible first round playoff match up against the Eagles. If the Pioneers can play a full game like that period, they might be able to make a series out of it.
Coach remarked, "Anytime we play Edson, it is a good reminder of where we are actually at. They are a very good team - they are quick on the transition and they have depth. There are things that we need to do with our game, like executing our own systems in order to be successful."
When thinking ahead to a Edson playoff match up Williams said, "Edson is a fast paced team full of good players all around which makes them a solid opponent every night against anyone. Their speed and puck skill is definitely why they're one of the top ranked teams in the West."
Saturdays game against Fox Creek was the fifth close game between the Ice Kings and Pioneers since Dec 10. The Pioneers were looking to avenge their loss to Fox by one goal last weekend. The first period was back and forth with each team scoring three. Gibbons had goals from Lovely, Cunningham and Vansickle but allowed Fox Creek 2 power play goals.
Second period was also neck and neck with the Pioneers getting another from Lovely but the IceKings netting two taking the game into the second intermission leading 5-4. After allowing one more half way through the third, the Pioneers tied it up 6-6 with a power play goal from Kalin and an unassisted goal from assistant captain Duncan Gaunt. The second half of the third was tense as both teams tried to get the go ahead goal but it was Fox Creek that came out on top with a goal with 2 minutes remaining. Back to back weekends with one goal losses to Fox Creek has the Pioneers already dreaming of the next revenge matchup.
"Losing by one is always frustrating but it's hard not to remember October and November when every game was a blow out. We aren't losing by ten anymore so the one goal game is definitely nice. We are seeing success offensively but unfortunately our D zone is still not where it needs to be. We are working on it every single day. We are starting to see minor improvements there as well but we keep turning pucks over and our opponents keep capitalizing on it."
Coach's messaging to the players to shake this trend of one-goal losses is about consistency and doing the work in preparation. "Whether it is the mindset coming into games or the work put in at practice Monday through Thursday, it all adds up to being successful on the weekend. We have to keep striving to do the work. The good thing is, with that process, we get to turn the page at the end of this year and keep rebuilding and hopefully keep steaming ahead. The success will come, I know that, it just takes time."