It wasn’t exactly the start to the season the Athabasca Aces were looking for.
The Aces opened the 2010-2011 North Central Hockey League (NCHL) season against the Slave Lake Winterhawks Friday night in front of hometown fans with a rough-and-tumble 6-1 loss.
Despite the lopsided score, the game could have been a lot closer if the Aces were able to cash in their opportunities in the game.
That’s exactly what the Winterhawks did in the win.
“They made the most of their opportunities and we didn’t. We had real trouble putting the puck in the net,” exclaimed Tony Kiselyk, head coach of the Aces.
There wasn’t any lack of action, emotion or big hits in Friday night’s home opener, but unfortunately the Aces weren’t able to take advantage where it counted most.
And that was on the scoreboard.
The Aces had several five-on-three opportunities during important times in the game, but they weren’t able to beat Sheldon Ghostkeeper, the aptly named Winterhawks’ goaltender.
The game started with both teams trading big hits and shots, but neither team was able to claim the first goal of the new season until late in the frame when the Winterhawks capitalized on one of their first powerplay opportunities.
Less than a few minutes later, after an unfortunate bounce for the Aces, the Winterhawks made it 2-0 with a smooth breakaway goal.
The teams headed into the dressing room with Slave Lake making the most of their chances, while the Aces were left wondering what could have been.
The second period featured penalty troubles and rough stuff for both teams, but it was the Winterhawks who capitalized on their powerplay opportunities.
The Aces’ northwestern rivals made it 3-0 early in the period, and put the game of out of reach near the midway point of the period with a powerplay marker to make it 4-0.
The tension between the two teams reached a breaking point in the second when Andy Skoreyko was sent off for the rest of the game on a questionable checking from behind penalty.
Both benches were barking back and forth at each other after the incident, but as the period wore on the tempers cooled.
However, the goal scoring for the Winterhawks did not.
Slave Lake added two more goals later in the second period to officially put the game on ice by a 6-0 margin.
The third period showcased less rough stuff and more energy and chances for the Aces.
They were finally able to cash in on a five-on-three opportunity when Dustin Chisholm banged in the Aces’ first goal of the regular season to spoil Ghostkeeper’s bid for a shutout.
The rest of the period didn’t feature anymore goal scoring, but there were plenty of big hits and two more game misconducts.
Ryan Breckenridge of the Aces and Blair Sinclair of the Winterhawks were both sent off after another checking from behind incident occurred in the middle of the period.
At the final buzzer, the Winterhawks had outscored the Aces 6-1 and outshot them 44-41.
Both teams spent plenty of time in the penalty box, too. There were a total of 29 penalties between the two north central Alberta teams; 15 for the Winterhawks and 14 for the Aces.
“There wasn’t much flow in the second with all of the penalties. We definitely have to watch the penalty situation with these guys,” said Kiselyk.
Despite not having too much success on their powerplay, Kiselyk was happy with how his team moved the puck around.
“I was pretty happy with the guys. I was pleased with our puck movement on our powerplay, but I felt we did rush our shots in some instances,” he explained.
Waiting for the right time to shoot on a five-on-three is something the Aces will have to work on, said Kiselyk.
“You want to take one or two real good shots instead of those low percentage shots.”
Evening their regular season record this Friday night won’t be an easy task to say the least. The Aces will travel to Onoway to face the defending NCHL champs on Friday, then return home to try and exact their revenge against the Winterhawks in a matinee match-up on Sunday.
Game time is 2 p.m. at the Athabasca Regional Multiplex.