There is no substitute for hard work on the path to success, but it appears the Fort St. John Huskies (7-5) have found the cheat code.
After a thrilling 5-4 shootout loss to cross the creek rival Dawson Creek Junior Canucks (10-5) Saturday night, the Huskies followed with an 11-1 drubbing of the Beaverlodge Blades Sunday. A three-point weekend on the surface looked like cause for celebration.
While Sunday’s effort can be chalked up to a one-period wonder— domination for 20 minutes in the first where the Huskies easily scored seven unanswered goals, Saturday left something to be desired in the eyes of the coaching staff.
“It’s just a matter of work ethic. There really wasn’t anything in our game that we were terrible at, other than we weren’t really moving our feet and we weren’t matching the effort that Dawson (Creek) was playing with. They played great, they played hard,” assistant coach Todd Alexander said Saturday night.
While the Huskies scraped out a point that night and have taken five of a possible six off one of the league’s best in the Jr. C’s, the shortcuts the team has taken to their relative success won’t lead to any sustained winning.
“Reality is the last three times we played them we’ve got five out of six points, but we have to have a better effort when we play against them. Somehow we have to figure out a way as a coaching staff about what button to push,” Alexander said. “Whatever button we pushed after the second was the right one. It can’t take us five periods to be pushing buttons every game, somebody has to step up in the room and play how we need them to play.”
For the first period and a half Saturday, the Huskies were thoroughly outplayed by a Dawson Creek team that looked like they had something to prove to the huge crowd at North Peace Arena, leading 4-1 midway through the second period. Goals from Matt Apsassin and Gary Loewen quelled the tide for the Huskies, less than a minute apart in the middle frame and left them with a chance to earn a point in the third.
After a massive glove save from Huskies’ goalie Jonny Bateman in the third, Adam Bowie went the other way and ripped a wrister past former teammate Logan Edwards to tie the game at four. Alexander called the third period and overtime one of the only time his team performed to what they were capable of against Dawson Creek this year.
“The first two periods, Dawson (Creek) just took it to us with old- fashioned work ethic and just outworked us. In the last six periods we’ve been outworked five of the six,” Alexander said. “Finally we woke up in the third period and overtime, I think we outshot them 27-13 the remainder of the way. Bottom line is we just didn’t show up to work.”
Cecil Lake native Edwards was fantastic in his first win for Dawson Creek, and it came with pockets of the hometown crowd quietly rooting for the 20-year-old netminder. Edwards stopped both Jacob Lang and Brandon Howard in the shootout, while Mark Readman and Wesley Shipton scored to give the Jr. C’s the win.
“It was unbelievable,” said Edwards, who made 50 saves and was first star on Saturday night. “I’ll never get a feeling like that ever. Never had one like that before, the boys played unbelievable. They had my back all-night long.”
Tavis Viens got his first win in the North West Junior Hockey League Sunday afternoon in the Huskies 11-1 win over Beaverlodge.
Viens only had to make 14 saves in a relatively quiet win, Alexander still praised the young netminder for stepping up to the occasion for the team.
“Good on him, those are tough games for a goalie to get into, he was good when he had to be,” Alexander said.
Matt Apsassin was the first star of the game Sunday, earning his first NWJHL hat trick and adding an assist for 12 points in six games since he rejoined the Huskies on Oct. 28.
“He’s got all the tools and sometimes he leaves his tool belt at home,” Alexander said. “He’s bringing all his weapons to the rink. His biggest weapon is whether or not he wants to be here. He’s definitely showed that since he’s been back… Things change and people get chances. He got a second chance and here he is, we’re rewarding him and he’s rewarding us. So it’s a good two way street right now and hopefully he keeps bringing it the way he’s been bringing it, it’s definitely a boost in the offensive end.”
Jacob Lang chipped in two goals and added two assists, while Brandon Howard had a five-point night with two goals and three assists. Kyle Crawford also added two goals. Lou Turnbull-Giesbrecht and Shawn Wilson also added goals for the Huskies.
Eric Tobler Weekend
The Huskies also held a fundraiser for team helper Eric Tobler on the weekend, with portions of gate revenue, 50/50 and a donation box being given to the Tobler family to help with medical expenses.
Tobler, a long-time all-around off the ice contributor with the Huskies has been battling with a series of medical complications, stemming from an injury he suffered this summer, and has been in and out of hospitals across the province since. Huskies GM Jeremy Clothier said the fundraiser was just what the team needed to do to help out one of their own.
“He’s been part of our team for eight seasons now, anything we can do to help guys that have been with us for that many years is part of our organization, part of the way we build our culture,” he said.
Clothier added the big crowd on Saturday and all the donations will hopefully go a long way to helping the Tobler family.
“He means a lot, he’s a behind the scenes guy... it’s always nice to see the community support our players and our coaching staff. It’s a big part of who we are in the community, trying to get out there and help as much as possible. To see the community give back to our team is a big goal.”
Alexander added that Tobler has always been a great help to the organization, and praised him for his toughness through all he’s been through the last several months.
“He’s the type of kid that just shows up here everyday of the week. You’d come down here to grab something and he’s mopping the floor, he’s doing something,” he said.
“He makes everything tick with the things he picked up the slack on… we definitely miss having him, he’s been through a lot lately. I can tell you this, the amount of surgeries that kids been through in the last month, if he was a hockey player he’d probably be one of the toughest S.O.B’s I’ve ever coached.”
The home stand continues for the Huskies Friday night, Nov. 18 against the Fairview Flyers, with Puck drop set for 8:30 p.m. to give fans a chance to fill the NPA after the Santa Clause Parade. The pups will follow that up with a trip to Sexsmith to take on the Vipers Saturday night.