The Athabasca Aces probably wish they wouldn’t have to see the Onoway Ice Dogs again this season, after their third loss against the first-place and undefeated Ice Dogs of the North Central Hockey League (NCHL).
The Aces came close, but not close enough in a 5-3 defeat Friday night at the Athabasca Regional Multiplex.
In their two previous meetings this season, the Ice Dogs beat the Aces 7-5 and 13-6.
Unfortunately for the Aces, it won’t be long until they see Onoway again. Athabasca will visit Onoway on Nov. 26. The two teams won’t see each again until Jan. 15 after the November contest.
A slow start out of the gate may have doomed the Aces from the beginning Friday night, but thanks to some fantastic goaltending by Jeff Creaser, the Aces were still in the game.
“We had a late start to the game. Everyone can attest to that, and we were lucky to get away with what we had after the first period,” explained Tony Kiselyk, head coach of the Aces.
What the Aces had heading into the dressing room after the first period was a 1-0 deficit, but it could have been much worse if the Ice Dogs had put away more than one of their 15 first period shots.
“We never got out of our end for the first five minutes,” exclaimed Kisleyk.
The second period started almost exactly like the first, with the Ice Dogs scoring a quick, early goal to increase their lead to two over the Aces.
Midway through the period, Onoway added to their lead with their first power play marker of the game to make it 3-0. The second period showcased a game full of flow and intensity, and if weren’t for a few bounces here and there, the Aces could have been back in the game earlier.
“We had some movement going in the midway point of the period. The flow was back and forth and it made for some good hockey,” said Kiselyk.
The Aces finally got on the board with 13.1 seconds left in the frame, on a power play goal by Bryan Hall, to cut the lead down to 3-1.
It was Hall’s first goal of the season.
Shaun Kiselyk made the game interesting at the 6:36 mark with a hard-nosed goal, jamming the puck past the Onoway goaltender to cut the lead to just one.
But the Aces’ hopes of a stunning comeback were quickly dashed 1:12 later as the Ice Dogs crowded Creaser’s crease and slammed home their fourth goal of the game.
“We’d get one closer and then they would get another one,” noted Kiselyk.
Onoway iced the game at the 14:28 mark with their fifth goal of the game to make it 5-2 in favour of the road warriors, but Jay Robinson of the Aces put the deficit back to two with a late power play goal.
By that point, it was too late for an Aces comeback.
With the loss, the Aces dropped to 2-5 on the season.
Giveaways and a lack of urgency in the puck-moving department cost the Aces in the end.
“If you wait a little too long or try to beat a guy, you’re going to get picked. We need to learn to move the puck a bit quicker,” explained Kiselyk.
Although the Aces were able to score two power play goals on the night, one came late and they failed to get any type of pressure on a five-on-three opportunity late in the first and early in the second.
“We just weren’t clicking very well tonight,” said Kiselyk.
If the Aces are going to have any chance of moving up the standings and getting away from playing Onoway in the first round of the playoffs, they will need to continue working on moving the puck quicker and getting out of their own end more efficiently.
“We really have to work on moving the puck faster out of our zone. We spent way too much time in there against Onoway,” noted Kiselyk.
The Aces also played in Legal on Sunday, and like Friday night’s tilt, the Aces came out on the losing end yet again.
The Aces fell 6-5 to the Vipers in the matinee affair.
The score doesn’t really paint a great picture of how the game went for the Aces, since Athabasca trailed the Vipers for most of the game by a wide margin.
The second period, which in the past has been a tough period for the Aces, was another one they would like to forget as the Vipers outscored the Aces 4-1 to go up 5-2.
The Vipers scored a quick goal in the third period to seemingly put the game out of reach by a 6-2 margin, but the Aces battled back until the bitter end to make it 6-5.
Unfortunately, the Aces couldn’t complete the comeback.
Like Friday night, giveaways cost the Aces dearly in Legal.
“We’ve got to cut down on our giveaways so we don’t have to score seven goals a game to win,” said Kiselyk.
The loss plunges the Aces’ regular season record to 2-6 thus far.
Their four points are only better than the expansion Rocky Rams, and although they sit in second-last place, the Aces are only four points out of third.
The Aces’ next contest will go this Saturday night at the Athabasca Regional Multiplex in what should be a very close match-up against the sixth-place Edson Ice.
Game time is 8:30 p.m