The Fort St. John Huskies walked out of Memorial Arena on Saturday with an ugly 4-3 win, handing the Junior Canucks their fourth straight loss on home ice.
“I thought we were awful,” bluntly remarked Huskies’ head coach Gary Alexander following the game. “We didn’t get any flow going but we managed to do what we had to do to win.”
“I think both teams were the same way, they just didn’t seem motivated to win on either side.”
Canucks’ bench boss Eric Fulton would agree with his coaching counterpart.
“We played 70 per cent of that game and we didn’t even play 30 of it where guys weren’t even thinking - their heads weren’t anywhere near the ice,” said Fulton, whose team is winless for the month of December with one game left before the break.
“We have the information we just don’t know how to process it sometimes,” he added.
“That’s a lot of our problems right now, we know what we are supposed to do, we know how to do it. It’s like taking a barbeque and throwing the directions away and you end up with a big piece of iron and it doesn’t work – that’s where we’re at right now. We have probably built half the barbeque, we just can’t grill on it.”
Fort St. John dodged a bullet in the first period after killing off three consecutive penalties,after shutting down the Canucks’ power play, while Huskies’ forward Robbie Sidhu notched an unassisted marker at 12:11 to open the scoring.
“Our penalty kill was better than it has been on most nights, we avoided getting scored on early and that kind of carried us through,” said Alexander, who noted that both the Canucks and Huskies are “struggling to find their identity”. Before Saturday Fort St. John had two wins in nine games and are now in sixth spot in the North West Junior Hockey League with a 7-14-0-2 record, four points back of the fourth place Canucks.
The Huskies increased their lead in the second when Owen Barker put the puck past Canucks’ goaltender Kaden Bouchard two minutes into the frame.
But Dawson Creek finally started ‘cooking’ in the second, scoring two power play goals to end the period to tie things up at 2-2.
Spencer Gover’s point shot found the back of the net midway through the frame during the Huskies sixth penalty of the night, bringing the Canucks within one and sending hundreds of stuffed animals over the boards on Teddy Bear Toss night.
Brendan Lazinchuk buried the Canucks’ second goal of the period, beating Huskies’ goaltender Travis McLean in close off a beautiful cross-crease setup from Colton Gies.
“I think we got better, they weren’t doing what we asked in the first period, there was no rhyme or reason for where they were putting the puck. We corrected that between the first and second periods and it looked a lot better,” said Fulton about the Canucks’ special teams.
“I thought our penalty kill was good except the 5-on-3 it got a little lackadaisical on us around the net, so apart from that I was happy,” he added.
Fort St. John managed to score on the two-man advantage while Gies and Canucks’ forward Brett Norman were in the box for a pair of minors. Blair Karasiuk scored the Huskies first and only power play marker of the night five minutes into the final period to put Fort St. John up 3-2.
Tyler Norris added to the Huskies lead scoring the eventual game winner with eight minutes left to make it 4-2.
Gies scored with six seconds remaining on the clock, to bring it within one, but there would be no magic finish for Dawson Creek.
Sidhu ended the night with three points, and Gies led the way for the Canucks with two. McLean stopped 32 shots for the win, while Bouchard turned aside 21.
“When the team is down the goaltender has to be able to win a game for you and I think Travis [Mclean] did that for us last night,” remarked Alexander.
The Huskies are off for Christmas break, while the Canucks have one game left as they visit the Grande Prairie Kings this Thursday. The Huskies and Canucks, however, faceoff again in the New Year on Jan. 4 at North Peace Arena.