CANMORE – Complacency has knocked the wind out of the Canmore Eagles.
The team has dropped the past four games including a trio of losses over the Family Day long weekend against the Drumheller Dragons twice and the Brooks Bandits.
The recent skid comes off the heels of the team’s season-long win streak of four games, which included wins against Brooks and the Okotoks Oilers, the two top teams in the league.
“We had a swagger in our game against Brooks and Okotoks … all we can do is forget these last four games and move on with a fresh mindset,” said Eagles forward Lukas Jirousek.
Head coach Andrew Milne is concerned about the mental focus of his players with only three games remaining before the start of playoffs.
“I think being late in the season there is a mental fatigue that starts to set in,” said Milne. “There has been a mental let down. It’s not that these games don’t mean anything – we’ve made the playoffs, and these last few games aren’t going to change the standings the only things they will change are our habits.”
Evan McFeeters, the Eagles’ assistant coach echoed Milne’s worry, adding that the veteran players need to set an example for the younger and less experienced players.
"It’s our younger group, which makes up a majority of our team. At this point, they are learning,” McFeeters said. “They’re a little bit shocked that teams have been coming out this hard against us since that win streak and we’re not surprising anyone anymore.”
The Eagles coaching staff said the team will need to show maturity and discipline if they are to return to being a team that can compete against the top opponents and make a push in the playoffs.
In the last three games, the Eagles have been in the sin bin with five fighting penalties, two separate game misconduct penalties and two team penalties.
“We need to do a better job at keeping our composure out there especially when the intensity is starting to ramp up,” said Eagles defenceman Drae Gardiner, who dropped the gloves over the long weekend. “We want to play with intensity and push the game physically, it’s a fine line."
McFeeters added: “Discipline for us has to start in the dressing room, flow onto our bench and then the ice. We have to understand there is going to be adversity and we need our maturity to get us through that adversity. Things are going to happen that won’t be in our favour so we need to turn that into a positive."
He also raised the importance of limiting the oppositions time on the power play. The Eagles were shorthanded 20 times over the last four games and struggled to kill penalties, operating at a lowly 57.25 per cent since Feb. 8.
The Eagles will host the Olds Grizzlys on Friday (Feb. 21) before heading to Camrose to face the Kodiaks, who they will face in the first round of playoffs. The final game of the season will be on Tuesday (Feb. 25) against Okotoks at the Canmore Rec Centre.
“We’ve played good hockey in the last month and we’ve seen good hockey, so the guys know what is expected of them to have success,” Milne said.