BARRHEAD - After not recording a home win in the 2022-2023 campaign, the Barrhead Bombers won back-to-back games in their second homestand of the young Canadian-American Junior Hockey League (CAJHL) season.
On Oct. 13, Barrhead defeated the Stavely Mustangs 4-3 before winning a 6-5 come-from-behind victory against the Cold Lake Aeros.
In the first game, the Bombers opened up the scoring just short of the eight-minute mark of the first period on a goal by Cade Bohn.
And that is how it would remain in a mostly evenly played period, although the home squad outshot the visitors 13 to 9.
Barrhead extended its lead three minutes into the second period when Riley Doerkson put the puck behind the Mustangs' starting goaltender.
Stavely hit the scoreboard two minutes later on a shorthanded marker.
But it did not take long for the Bombers to respond, thanks to Bohn's second goal of the night.
The Mustangs would narrow the deficit two minutes later. However,
Barrhead would restore its two-goal lead on a goal by Keenan Disbrowe. Stavely would end up outshooting Barrhead 27 to 14 in the period.
The Mustangs would score by the game's final goal six minutes into a penalty-filled third period.
Following the game, head coach Mario Haase said sometimes you have to win ugly.
"Tonight's effort certainly wasn't pretty, and we have a lot of things that we need to clean up," he said. "But a win is a win. Last season, we did not get our first win until something like game 40."
Haase said he liked that the game got off to a strong start, scoring the first.
But he said that is a double-edged sword in that although they have some veterans and older players, they are still a young team.
"Learning to play with the lead is also a skill, which we emphasized in the first and second intermissions," Haase said.
Haase also credited 20-year-old Westlock native John Zeise, who is in his second season with the Bombers, who stopped 46 out of 49 in his first start.
Unfortunately, he said they ran into penalty trouble in the second and third periods due to the lack of experience.
"When you have one or two guys in the box, with an already short bench, and have a couple of forwards playing defence," Haase said.
He noted that the team is a bit banged up, saying they lost two players from the week before, where they played three games in three nights.
Garrick Denchuk, with a partial AC tear and a concussion, will be out for multiple weeks; the other, Marco Russo, suffered a bone bruise and a bad contusion and will return to the lineup in two to three weeks.
"Our boys are used to playing a lot; most play between 22 and 32 minutes a game, so conditioning shouldn't be an issue. We may be the most well-conditioned team in the league."
In the second game, Cold Lake got off to a strong start, scoring the first three goals in the opening frame before Christopher Vinck scored with 43 seconds left in the first period. The Aeros restored their lead, scoring with nine seconds left in the period. Vinck would also score in the third period.
Barrhead scored three unanswered goals in the second period: Jordan Martens and Jackson Rufiange. In the third period, Martens would complete the hat trick, and Vinck notched his second goal.
Zeise made his straight second start in net, stopping 49 out of 54 shots.
"[In the first intermission] we had a really professional conversation. It wasn't about emotion, where we were in the game, how many shots we allowed or anything else," Hasse said. "We just focussed on the task, decided to leave the mental mistakes behind and take it one shift at a time. It is not basketball. There are no three-pointers."
He also singled out Martens for his quiet leadership and leading by example.
"We need that type of leadership to show the young guys the way, and it is something I've come to expect from Jordan," Haase said, noting that Martens was a game-time decision after he suffered bruised ribs after receiving a cross-check to his lower back region late in the third period the previous night.
The Bombers' next home game is against the Vegreville Vipers on Friday, Oct. 27.