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Ryan McCracken photo
Ryan McCracken photo
St. Paul Canadiens affiliate player Andre Kuznetson stops with the puck on his stick during the Habs' 7-3 loss to the Vermilion Tigers at Clancy Richard Arena on Friday.
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Habs look to climb standings as playoffs approach

Feb 04, 2014 11:15 am | By Ryan McCracken | St. Paul Journal

The St. Paul Canadiens came up short in a 7-3 loss to the Vermilion Tigers on Friday, but followed it up with a 5-3 win over the Killam Wheat Kings on Saturday, leaving the Habs with a chance at fifth seed in the post season.

Canadiens Head Coach Joe Young was left disappointed following Friday night’s game, citing that things need to change if St. Paul hopes to find success in the playoffs.

“First and foremost we just need a full effort. I don’t know how many times I was screaming for the bench, move your feet, I don’t care if it’s a d-man or a forward. Things just need to change,” he said. “It’s just not the effort that’s acceptable to me, and the coaching staff, and it has to change going into the playoffs.”

While the Canadiens have been finding the back of the net first in a number of recent games, holding onto the lead has been a struggle, and Habs’ forward Tanner Hellquist says it comes down to stepping up the intensity.

“Once we get that first goal, we have to turn it up a notch,” Hellquist said following Friday’s game. “We’ve got to realize that we have to step it up after that first goal and play even harder than we did to get that goal.”

Young pointed to special teams, particularly the penalty kill, as another area where the Canadiens need to step up the intensity in order to move forward with a degree of confidence.

“We talk about it all the time, we’ve got to push them on the penalty kill. Well, we didn’t do that tonight, and we didn’t do it last game. We let them dictate it, cross ice passes, just making us look bad,” said Young. “When you’re not skating, that’s what’s going to happen to you. If it doesn’t turn around quick, it’s going to get ugly.

On Saturday, the changes began to take shape at Clancy Richard Arena, as the Canadiens picked up a crucial two points over the Killam Wheat Kings, killing five of six penalties and sweeping the season series against Killam 4-0.

If the Canadiens can manage three wins against the Onion Lake Border Kings, Saddle Lake Warriors and Vegreville Rangers as they close out the season next weekend, a fifth place seeding and a date with Killam in the post season is within their grasp.

“We’re still fighting for fifth. We still have a game at hand, so you never know,” Young said following Friday’s game. “We just have to change the way that we’re playing this game physically and mentally.”

Hellquist added that the entirety of the Canadiens season comes down to the upcoming three-game weekend, and that picking up points and building confidence are essential as they finish off on the road.

“It’s huge,” he said. “We’re going to need all the points we can get so that we can move up in the standings if we can, and if we can’t we at least have to play to our abilities and know what we have going into these playoffs.”

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