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Aces trounced at home

The Athabasca Aces had a night to forget on Saturday. The team played host to the powerful Onoway Ice Dogs and ended up on the wrong side of a 9-1 beating.
Justin Tebbenham (18) of the Athabasca Aces tries to catch Allan Erick (9) of the Onoway Ice Dogs on Saturday night. The Dogs won 9-1.
Justin Tebbenham (18) of the Athabasca Aces tries to catch Allan Erick (9) of the Onoway Ice Dogs on Saturday night. The Dogs won 9-1.

The Athabasca Aces had a night to forget on Saturday.

The team played host to the powerful Onoway Ice Dogs and ended up on the wrong side of a 9-1 beating.

It was the Aces fifth loss to Onoway in as many games this season, leaving head coach Tony Kiselyk to suspect the Dogs have taken up residence in his players’ heads.

“We have trouble getting past them. It's something we need to work on," said the coach after the game.

The Ice Dogs mental advantage over the Aces may have its roots in last year’s playoffs. It was there that Onoway swept Athabasca in the first round with relative ease, bringing an abrupt end to the Aces season.

And this season, a first round rematch is looking increasingly likely as the Dogs and Aces are first and fourth in the North Central Hockey League’s North Division respectively.

So Athabasca will have to find a way to deal with the Dogs sooner or later.

"They're one of the best teams in the league and they usually play like it. We need to put up a better effort," said Kiselyk. "We started out pretty good in the first seven minutes, but then all of a sudden we quit skating. You do that against this team, and it’s 4-0."

Then it was 5-0 after the second period and 9-0 with two minutes remaining in the third before Brett Topola finally drew first blood for the Aces by intercepting an Onoway pass, walking in and deking the goaltender.

It was one of the few positives from an effort that will need to be wiped off the mental slate well before this weekend's road game in Slave Lake.

"We have to pass this off as one of those bad games. You can't dwell on it," said the coach. "Every time we made a mistake, the puck ended up in our net. Those games happen every now and then."

Now the Aces will try to ensure it doesn't happen again any time soon. Doing so shouldn't require any major changes, as Kiselyk firmly believes his team has what it takes to compete with the top teams in the league. So what does need to change?

"If you want to beat the best teams in the league, you've got to do everything right. We need to have a higher energy level, like we did last weekend against Legal," he said in reference to the team's 7-6 victory over the Legal Vipers on Jan. 9. That was Athabasca's first win over Legal in franchise history, proving they can get over the mental hurdle of dealing with a team that has had their number in the past.

But before any potential rematch with Onoway, the Aces have Slave Lake to deal with, a team with which they have developed a heated rivalry.

"We have a history with them. We don't like each other very much," said the coach. "We can't let them get under our skin."

Instead, they'll try to do to Slave Lake what they were unable to do to Onoway; beat them on the scoreboard.





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