The Athabasca Aces are finally starting to see their hard work pay off in the win column after this past weekend’s first back-to-back wins of the year.
The Aces had an offensive feast against the Rocky Mountain House Rams Sunday afternoon at the Athabasca Regional Multiplex, scoring eight goals on 47 shots en route to an 8-2 win over the last place, expansion Rams.
It was the first game this season the Aces really took it to an opposing team for most of the game.
It was also the first time the have won a weekend series in the North Central Hockey League (NCHL) this season.
“We had a great game today. Our possession time was fantastic, we moved the puck very well and we kept out of the box for the most part again,” explained head coach Tony Kiselyk.
Sean Wrusch potted a hat trick for the Aces Sunday and added a couple helpers as the onslaught continued into the third period.
The game was close for a while though.
Midway through the second period, the Rams actually had the lead by a score of 2-1, but two consecutive goals by Wrusch put the Aces ahead for good.
From there, the Aces’ offense continued to throw pucks the way of the Rams’ goaltender and eventually more started to go in.
“I challenged the guys to pick it up a notch in the second period and they really responded. Our second period was really good on both sides of the puck,” exclaimed Kiselyk.
The Aces’ win Sunday was their second of the weekend and second in a row.
Athabasca also defeated the Hinton Heat Saturday night at home in a thrilling 7-6 overtime win.
Aces’ forward Justin Tebbenham scored the winning marker against the Heat on Saturday and was a force in both of the games this past weekend.
Gaining five out of the possible six points in their last three games has given the Aces some life not only in the standings, but also for their confidence.
“Everything is going good right now. We definitely have our confidence back after this weekend,” said Tebbenham.
The Aces’ starting goalie, Jeff Creaser, picked up his second win of the weekend with Sunday’s domination of the Rams. He stopped 18 of the 20 shots that were put his way.
He also picked up the win against the wild affair against the Heat.
It was exactly the kind of game the Aces needed Friday night against the Hinton Heat to break out of their seven-game losing streak.
In an exciting, back-and-forth affair, the Aces and the Heat gave the Athabasca Regional Multiplex fans a game they probably won’t forget for a while.
“We’ve been working really hard and we deserved a good win,” exclaimed Kiselyk after Saturday night’s win.
Tebbenham lifted the fans and spirits of the Aces in the overtime period with a shorthanded, breakaway goal at the 2:33 mark.
It was the first two points for the Aces in over two months.
“It was so exciting, I really don’t know what to say,” exclaimed Tebbenham.
After a questionable boarding call in overtime against Andy Skoreyko gave the Heat a key four-on-three opportunity, an errant pass gave Tebbenham a chance to show what his speed and desire brings to the Aces.
Tebbenham was able to streak his way past two sprawling Heat players, take the puck in alone against Hinton goalie Kyle Day and roofed it for the game winner.
It was Tebbenham’s second goal of the game.
The Aces and Heat entered the third period tied at four a piece, but Athabasca quickly took the lead back thanks to a goal by Jay Robinson at the 2:09 mark.
Athabasca extended their lead to 6-4 at the 6:10 point with a hard working goal by Jody Tangedal, but if the first two periods were any indication of how no lead was safe, it was true for the rest of the third.
The Heat battled their way back to tie the game at the 12:24 mark of the third.
The two wins improve the Aces’ record to 4-9-1 and extends their unbeaten streak to 2-0-1.
The Aces will host the first-place Drayton Valley Wildcats this Saturday night at the Athabasca Regional Multiplex, which will put the Aces current hot streak to the test.
The kind of performances the Aces have put forth in their last three contests give them reason to believe they can gather some crucial points before the Christmas break arrives.
“This is exactly what we needed. With Drayton, Hinton and Edson in our next three, we know we have a good chance of beating them,” said Kiselyk.
The Aces still sit in second last, but only four points behind Edson and Hinton as of Sunday night for sixth and fifth place respectively.
Game time is 8:30 p.m.