WESTLOCK - Through their first two games of the 2021/2022 North Central Hockey League season, the Westlock Senior Warriors have assaulted opposing goalies with 97 shots, while their own netminders have faced 57 and sport a sparkling .947 save percentage.
Normally those numbers would be a recipe for success, yet the Warriors only have one goal through their first 120 minutes of play and now sit at 0-2 and in a tie for last in the eight-team league.
At their Oct. 23 home opener at the Rotary Spirit Centre versus the Camrose Crush, the Warriors came out flying, but wound up heading into the locker room down 1-0 after the first 20 minutes despite an 18-11 shot advantage. Then with 9:22 left in the middle frame, first-year Warrior Gerald Desjarlais solved the Crush netminder to knot the game at a goal apiece.
After failing to cash in on an early powerplay in the third, the Warriors went down again when the Crush capitalized at 12:31 to go up 2-1. The rest of the frame the Warriors buzzed the Crush with 21 shots, but just couldn’t find the equalizer.
Captain Mike Ivey said the guys are staying positive and probably should be celebrating a 2-0 start, not looking for their first ‘W’ of the year. The club opened the season with a 1-0 loss to the Fort Saskatchewan Chiefs Oct. 16 — a game that saw the Warriors outshoot the Chiefs 41-28.
“We’re basically at almost 100 shots in two games which is awesome, but when you only have one goal to show for it, it’s something we need to figure out. Those are two games we’ve really outplayed the other teams and we deserved a better fate … we should probably have two wins,” said Ivey.
“We’ve run into hot goalies for sure, but the guys need to bear down. We’re creating big chances, these aren’t outside shots. But we also need a bit of puck luck. We hit two or three posts yesterday, so the chances are there, they just need to start going in. I hope the guys aren’t squeezing the sticks too tight because they will start going in.
“Our defence and our goaltending has been fantastic so it really comes down to getting our offence going.”
The Warriors have a nice mix on the ice, with a heavy dose of vets and six rookies, plus an affiliated player. He says it’s just a matter of time before the scoring slump ends.
“We’ve got a great group. We’ve outplayed two of the better teams in the league and we’ve probably deserved to win both,” he said. “Once we get going I think the floodgates will open up. We just need to get some guys their confidence back.”
The Warriors schedule is a little funky to start the year after Blackfalds, who they were supposed to face a few times this month, dropped out of the league. Now the club will be off for the remainder of October and won’t hit the ice again until Nov. 13 when they’ll host the Bonnyville Pontiacs, who also currently sit at 0-2. The last two Saturdays in November the Warriors will be on the road for games in Devon and Red Deer, then have four tilts split between home and away in December before the Christmas break.
“It’s kind of a frustrating schedule with Blackfalds out of the league. I mean the break is good, all the guys are getting older and can use the rest, but it would be nice to get some flow going. Guys want to play games,” said Ivey. “We just want to get through this break and then get back on it.”