It was the best team in the North West Hockey League that the Huskies were up against on a rare Tuesday night game at North Peace Arena.
To make up for a game postponed back in early November, the Fort St. John Huskies and the Grande Prairie JDA Kings went head-to-head in front of a rather sparse crowd on Jan. 8.
Short benched due to work, multiple injuries and a few players caught behind a snowy wreck up the highway, it didn’t look good for the Huskies as the puck dropped, but despite their roster, they battled the league’s best team for a good 40 minutes.
For the first two periods, whenever the Kings scored, the Huskies answered with goals from Robbie Sidhu, Jayton Wieler and two from Cayle Bell to start the third period tied with the Kings at 4-4.
The third period was a different story, with the Kings scoring three unanswered goals to go up 7-4. Even with some pressure and another goal from the Huskies, the Kings sealed the game’s fate with an empty netter late in the third to win it 8-5.
“[It’s been happening] all winter,” said Huskies head coach Gary Alexander after the game. “We just can’t seem to sustain the effort that we put into it. I don’t think that we actually changed our effort a whole lot in the third period, and we have to up it instead of playing the same game because the other teams seem to shift gear and get up there.”
“We just haven’t been able to do that. It’s something we’ve tried every angle to work on and nothing seems to be accomplishing anything at the moment.”
Although the Huskies recently lost to the Kings in an even closer 2-1 game last weekend, Alexander said his team seems to play this way no matter what caliber the team is on the other end of the ice.
“We’ve led every team in the league at one time or the other throughout the whole winter and we haven’t been able to sustain that,” he said. “We know the capabilities are there. We can’t put our finger on why we can’t pull off a complete game.”
“I don’t think we were totally outgunned or anything but we have terrible puck luck. WE can’t seem to be able to get it to hop that direction, but sometime’s that’s the extra step that we aren’t taking to get possession of it when there is a hop there. You can make all the excuses that you want but the work ethic is what it comes down to.”
To fill some of the holes in their roster Tuesday night, the Huskies called up two players from the Trackers, Ricky Bateman and Thomas Webster, who were seen crashing the net and making hits along to boards.
“They performed well,” Alexander said about the Midget players. “You can tell they haven’t had a lot of experience with the older guys but they held their own pretty good. A little bit of confidence a couple more games and they could play here quite easily.”
As it stands the Huskies are sitting in second to last in the NWJHL with 16 points (7-15-2).
The weekend ahead might not prove any easier for the Huskies either. They’ll be hosting the North Peace Navigators, the league’s second-best team, Saturday night at North Peace Arena.