Winning ugly usually only has one bright spot— a win.
That’s exactly what the Fort St. John Huskies (3-2) were able to accomplish Friday night at North Peace Arena, overcoming a sloppy effort to grab a 5-3 victory over the County of Grande Prairie JDA Kings (4-2).
“So far we have been pretty good with our assignment hockey and tonight we were a little lost in the details,” assistant coach Todd Alexander said. “Lots of stick swinging, stick checking; sloppy plays. Sloppy passes, some bad decisions. Ultimately, at the end of the day we found a way to win, even though we weren’t at our best.”
The win, the Huskies third straight, came largely on the shoulders of rookie goalie Jonny Bateman, whose 40-save performance actually lowered his season save percentage to .952 from .963. Bateman made big save after big save while the Huskies clung to a 4-3 lead in the third period. The six-foot-two netminder was also the first star on Friday.
“They’re doing their job every night,” Alexander said of his goaltending tandem. “They are super focused kids. [Bateman] is down here early, he’s ready to go. He’s already played the game in his mind before he goes on the ice. Nothing is rattling him. He’s got good composure.
“You didn’t see him have to make a lot of really big saves tonight, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t put in good work, just that his positioning was good so he doesn’t have to scramble to make that second save.”
It was a strong opening 10 minutes for the Huskies, as Jacob Lang converted on a 2 on 1 pass from Brandon Howard, before Howard scored a goal of his own 1:47 later.
However, some undisciplined play and lacklustre penalty killing by Fort St. John let the Kings convert back-to-back power play goals to tie the game at two.
“They did a good job of spreading us out. We get all spread out and they make a play to the middle of the ice,” Alexander said. “We can only talk about it so much, eventually somebody has to go out and execute. We warned our guys when it goes up high we want to be in a diamond and when it goes down low we want to be in a small box. We didn’t shift into that at all tonight.”
With 52 seconds left in the first frame, Geoff Dick scored in his second consecutive game to give the 3-2 Huskies lead.
The Kings scored the only goal of the second and Tyson Leard scored his first goal as a Huskie early in the third to restore the one-goal lead.
Josh Robinson iced the game with another long-distance empty-net goal, channeling the 200-foot magic of captain Jarod Lang and his empty netter last weekend.
Fort St. John will look for a four-point weekend Saturday night when they square off against the winless Beaverlodge Blades (0-4).