The Canmore Eagles dropped three straight games on a northern AJHL road trip, last weekend, leaving the team in search of their first road win.
The trip drops the team’s record to 3-17 on the season, after a 3-2 loss to Bonnyville on Friday, Oct. 28, a 5-2 loss to Lloydminster on Oct. 29 and a 2-1 loss to the Camrose Kodiaks on Oct. 30.
Assistant coach Kurtis Jones took the helm of the team in Andrew Milne’s absence. He said the team played great hockey short of a two-minute span in each match.
“We deserved to win two of those games. The outcome wasn’t what we wanted, but we played three hard teams in two and a half days,” Jones said.
Confidence is low with the club at the moment, however, Jones is optimistic they will turn it around soon.
“The positive is with a new coach, the guys responded. You know that if anyone comes in, they can run this hockey team. The guys are a good team. We lost eight or nine minutes this weekend and it cost us.”
The rookie-laden lineup must work hard every shift to earn their wins and make up for a lack of experience.
“We need 60 minutes from 20 guys every night. It’s the little things. Over the next three weeks, you’ll see these guys turn it around,” Jones said.
Several players are getting more ice time than expected due to injuries.
“Luke Philp gets more ice. Keegan Thompson gets more ice. Some guys who might play 15 minutes a night are now playing 28 minutes,” Jones said.
Jones said staying positive is the key to the needed turnaround. He’s got a few plans to keep the tempo and spirits up in practice this week.
“We’re going to work on hitting the net and staying positive. If you’re negative with these guys, they’re going to collapse. It’s important to talk to the guys and remind them that they’re a good hockey club,” Jones said.
The loss also prompted the club to make a trade. Dalton Olsen, who left the club to try out with the Vancouver Giants of the WHL, was traded to the Sherwood Park Crusaders for forward Stefan Bazar.
Bazar has 13 points (five goals, eight assists) in 14 games this year for Sherwood Park and head coach and general manager Andrew Milne said he’ll give the forwards a boost.
“He’s a dynamic forward who will give us depth and offence. He can skate and help with the powerplay and penalty kill,” Milne said.
Jones is keen to have Bazar in the lineup right away.
“He comes in as a top six forward and that might solve our problems right now,” Jones said.
The move was also prompted by news on Stephen Phee, whose wrist injury appears more serious than originally thought. Milne said Phee will be out of action for the next three to eight weeks. Trey Phillips is also out again after suffering a concussion in the first period of his first game back from a shoulder injury.
“We need some guys in our lineup. It doesn’t help that Hoekstra, Phee and Phillips are out of the lineup. That’s our entire top line. It’s a difficult scenario,” Milne said.
Hoekstra is with Team Canada West and should return in two weeks.
Milne is on a similar time schedule. He’ll be in charge of running the forwards and the powerplay at the Team Canada West Junior A camp, and is taking the opportunity as a learning experience.
“Any time you get to work with Hockey Canada and guys like Dean Brockman and Kent Lewis, it’s an honour. It’s great for me to learn and hear stories. It makes me a better coach.”
The Eagles next game is against the Calgary Canucks on Saturday (Nov. 5) to finish the road trip. They then return home Sunday, Nov. 6 to challenge Bonnyville at 2:30 p.m. at the Canmore Rec Centre.