Road Game Recap
The Pioneers were prepared to come home from their weekend road trip with 2 wins to add to their standings. Unfortunately luck was not on their side as they lost two close games despite outplaying both Fox Creek on Friday night and Slave Lake on Saturday.
Friday night's match up had Fox Creek get out to an early lead scoring two quick goals before 5 minutes had passed. The Pioneers finally got their feet under them and Oliver Lovely lead the charge in getting back into it with two goals of his own with assists from Cunningham and St. Arnaud by the half way point of the period. The Icekings got one more late and lead the Pioneers 3-2 after one.
The second period was not a strong one for the Pioneers as they allowed two unanswered goals and went down 5-2 despite having a number of power play opportunities. Coach noted, "Our PP is not the greatest at the moment and there is lots of reasons for that. It is important that we keep grinding it out and keep working on the structure part. I think in our case because of the record, the guys put a lot of pressure on themselves to perform particularly on power play. I think sometimes that pressure leads to one too many stick handles or forcing a play when they don't necessarily have to force it. Unfortunately, we didn't get to capitalize on the advantages we had. It is a process and the power play units that we have will continue to work on the structure piece to get better - it just takes time."
The third period brought back more of the Pioneers fire we are used to as Lovely finished out his hat trick with an unassisted goal and Seattle Cunningham brought the Pioneers within 1 with assists from Kardash and L'Hirondelle. The Pioneers were pushing for the equalizer and had a power play opportunity but allowed a short handed one to get away from them allowing the IceKings to take the lead 6-4. Braden Kalin gave the Pioneers some hope with 6 min left in the game but the Pioneers ran out of time and eventually succumbed to Fox Creek 6-5. After the game Lovely said, "I think our focus as a team will be to improve our back end and make sure we stick to our systems. (If we do that), I think we'll come out on top next weekend."
To help on that back end, the team had a new addition for the weekend with assistant coach Leighton Larson joining behind the bench. "Coaching the back side I was happy with the defensive core, however we need some work on our defensive zone coverage once they gain possession in our zone. My short term coaching goal is defensive zone play, understanding spatial position and the battle mind."
The team looked to bounce back for their Saturday showdown with Slave Lake and were the better team in Slave outshooting the Icedogs 76-32 throughout the game. Ethan Zago had the Pioneers in front after one but the Pioneers could have had a few more if not for Slave Lake goaltender Shawn Davis who was in the zone making 26 saves in the frame.
The Pioneers took their foot off the gas in the second allowing two goals from Munro and letting the Icedogs take a 2-1 lead. Slave Lake extended their lead to 3-1 on a powerplay goal halfway through the third. Oliver Lovely continued his productive weekend cutting the Icedogs lead in half with 1 min remaining. Less than a minute later, young gun Connor Ray tied the game in the dying seconds to take the game into overtime.
Overtime didn't solve anything and the two teams went into a shootout to settle the deadlock. Only Slave Lake shooter Justin Greyeyes put one past goaltender Meric Larson and the Icedogs took the contest 4-3.
The Pioneers deserved a better outcome being all over their opponent for most of the game. Logan Burns discussed the adjustments that need to be made to close out these tight games. "The team is getting consistent shots, but the down fall is that they aren't quality shots. The team is working on moving the puck to open ice and catching their goalies moving. We are slowly getting more aggressive and better at reading the rebounds. On the back end, we are progressively working on finding our man and sticking with him no matter where he goes. We end up giving up too many 2 on 1's and 3 on 2's because our transitions from offence to defence are too slow."
Coach Arsenault understands the team can get discouraged at times but is focusing on the big picture. "We had very close games this weekend. It is nice to have close games as we weren't having them in September. So in terms of microgoals, we are seeing some success. Obviously, when you have a record like we do, it can be discouraging but it is a process and it takes time and we know 'Ease' is the biggest threat to our success over 'Hardship'. Everything we are going through right now is on purpose and it is part of the process that is going to make us a really good team in the seasons to come. That part is exciting. It is all about microgoals this year - setting both the coaching philosophy, the systems, the structure we use but as well as building this culture which is solely going to become about elite performance where we can hopefully become a top team in this league. It is important that we trust the process. It is okay to get discouraged at times, it happens. We have to stick to the plan, stick to our structure and compete every single night and the success will come. Unfortunately for us, we didn't have a lot of time in the offseason from when I took over the program. I knew it was going to be a big hill to climb. The more adversity we face, the more it is going to help us in the future."