Canadiens facing Cold Lake in first round of playoffs
The Saddle Lake Warriors (8-19-1) locked up third place in the North Division of the Northeastern Alberta Junior B Hockey League with an 11-4 home victory over the St. Paul Canadiens (3-26-1) last Friday night.
The win boosted the Warriors to 17 points on the season with six games remaining, putting them 10 points ahead of St. Paul, a difference the Canadiens cannot make up by the end of the regular season.
“Our main goal now is to take every game as a preparation for what we’re going to be doing in the playoffs,” said Warriors head coach Darryl Buck. “We’re trying to work on our breakouts, our penalty killing and our passing. That’s our focus, wins and losses don’t mean anything now, we’re not going any higher and we’re not going any lower (in the standings).”
The Warriors jumped on the Habs early with a pair of first period goals from Davin Buck and Braedin Makokis-McGilvery, and followed it up with four more markers in the second frame before Jalel Abougouche finally snuck one past Warriors back up net-minder Emile Kappd, and Mackenzie Trach managed another after Barry Partridge put up an unassisted goal.
Tempers began to flare in the third period, and the animosity came to a head when John Schmitt dropped the gloves with Jade Cunningham.
“That guy was just creating havoc for our team all game,” Schmitt said of his decision to drop the gloves.
While Cunningham finished the tilt by throwing Schmitt hard to the ice, it was Schmitt who came out on top in the fight, giving his team a slight moral boost. Both players were ejected from the game following the fight.
“That was the highlight of the game for us,” said Canadiens assistant coach Dwayne Karbashewski. “He lit the boy up.”
Tyler Haineault continued his offensive prowess on the Warriors roster with three goals and an assist on the night, while Partridge notched a pair of goals and three assists to lift the Warriors to victory.
Despite imminent defeat, the Canadiens stuck to their guns and captain Rylan Couch potted his first goal of the season past Kappd to being the final score to 11-4 for Saddle Lake.
“It was kind of bittersweet,” Couch said. “I finally snapped the scoreless drought but we did lose the game.”
Buck noted that he is happy to have earned a date with the Vegreville Rangers (13-15-3) after his team turned their season around just over a month ago.
“I’m just really happy the boys are competing as hard as they are,” Buck said, adding that his team still needs to work on their discipline before the best-of-seven series against Vegreville. “In a few of the last couple of games we’ve been losing our composure and that can kill us in the playoffs.”
The Canadiens, who are still looking for their first road victory, will have a mountain to climb heading into the post-season, as they will take on the Cold Lake Ice (24-3-1) in a best-of-seven series that will see the Habs in the Ice’s barn four times if necessary.
“We have to get into a different mindset. (The Ice) have always played us super tough and really rough,” Karbashewski said. “We’ve just got to get these guys ready in the head, that’s the thing, because we’ve beat teams that have beat Cold Lake. We just have to get mentally prepared for it.”
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