In a hard fought, gritty effort against the first-place Onoway Ice Dogs of the North Central Hockey League (NCHL) on Friday night, the Athabasca Aces left town with a tough 7-5 loss.
This is the second time this season the Aces have played the defending NCHL champions, and neither time have they been able to come out with at least a point.
Compared to the first contest, the Aces played a much more complete game this time around.
“We didn’t win, unfortunately, but the boys played a really solid game,” explained Tony Kiselyk, head coach.
At one point in the game the Aces were down 4-1, but they were able to battle back in the second period — a period that has been a problem for the Aces in past games and last season — to get the team within reach of shooting for a tie.
“In the first period they were winning all of the battles in the corners, but in the second it was a totally different story. We were outworking them and winning those battles,” explained Kiselyk.
Unfortunately, the closest Athabasca came during the game was a two-goal deficit.
Every time the Aces would score to lessen the deficit to two, the Ice Dogs came right back with a goal of their own.
A couple of bounces their way in the third period could have changed the outcome, said Kiselyk.
“We hit two posts late in the third period. So who knows what could have happened.”
Keegan Tenney, who has played on defense for the Aces in their first three match-ups, was moved up to forward for Friday night’s game and it seemed to provide a much-needed offensive spark.
Tenney led the way in scoring with two goals and two assists.
Forward Andy Skoreyko also added two goals for the Aces, giving him four goals in the last two games.
The Aces’ powerplay also clicked, scoring three of the five goals on the night.
The problem for the Aces is Onoway’s powerplay was also working.
“They’re just such a good team. To give them a couple on the powerplay makes it tough to have a chance,” explained Kiselyk.
The Aces will continue their lengthy road trip with two games this weekend, one against the Drayton Valley Wolves on Friday night and the other against the NCHL’s newest team, the Rocky Mountain House Rams, in a matinee on Sunday.
Athabasca faced Slave Lake and Onoway twice each in their first four games, so the team is more than happy to see another foe.
“This weekend is going to be big. We’re getting tired of playing Onoway and Slave Lake, but it should be interesting to see what these two teams are like.”
With a 1-3 record thus far, Kiselyk isn’t happy with where they are in the standings, but he is optimistic as to how the team is progressing.
“Of course we’re not happy with the end results so far. We knew there were going to be some growing pains with some new players, but we’re starting to play better as a team,” he added.
The Aces will return home on Nov. 12 to play Onoway for the third of five meetings this season.
Game time is 8:45 p.m.