The short-benched Senior Canucks had the odds stacked against them on Saturday night when they travelled to Fort St. John to take on the Senior Flyers at North Peace Arena.
Holding their ground for the first 35 minutes of the game, the Canucks fought back from a 2-0 deficit and eventually got the 4-3 lead late in the second, but their lack of numbers caught up with them as the team lost its steam.
"We traded goals with Fort St. John in the first and second periods, and in the third they got the lead on us and we were unable to keep that pace," said Duncan Redfearn, head coach of the Dawson Creek Senior Canucks. "Something we've talked about all season is playing a more defensive game and protecting our defensive zone, not trying to run-and-gun."
"We didn't get in a real shooting match with them, but it was a little more offensive-minded then we'd set our mind to at the beginning of the season, so we need to get back there."
Another thing the team's been talking about is its inability to hold onto leads or ties late in games recently, which happened again on Saturday.
"In the last few games in particular we've found ourselves in the same predicament at the end of the game; we've either had a lead or had the game tied going into the third period or so, and we just haven't found ways to win those games," Redfearn said. "If we're going to compete or have any hope of moving forward in playoffs, we're going to have to find a way to win those games when we have a lead or are tied."
"Over the last few games we haven't been able to do that and it's start to reflect in our standings. We're down to fourth in our division right now and it's frustrating because that could be very different if we could figure out how to get those wins and finish off those games by putting together a full 60 minutes."
Saturday's game was Teddy Bear Toss night for the Flyers, and there was a lot of anticipation for Fort St. John's first goal so that fans could throw their bears on the ice. It didn't take long, after captain Jeff Shipton scored only 1:28 into the game to start the chaos.
Flyers' Kyle Leahy got the next goal to go up 2-0, but the Canucks answered quickly. Kole Norris opened scoring for the Canucks on the power play and just over a minute later, Kris Desjarlais got another one to tie the game at 2-2 going into the second.
The second period saw five goals, with the Flyers getting the go-ahead goal from Robbie Sidhu right off the bat. Again, the Canucks battled back, getting two-in-a-row to tie it then another to go up 4-3 for their first lead of the game. Colter MacLean tied the game at 3-3 for the Canucks, then three minutes later Desjarlais got a break away with eight minutes left in the period and scored on Troy Hunt for his second of the night.
"Kris has played really well this season," Redfearn said about Desjarlais. "He's another guy that can't make it all the time because of work, but when we have him in the lineup he's been very beneficial and he's a good guy to have on the ice."
Desjarlais' late goal in the second would be the Canucks' last, however.
The Flyers scored two more in the second to tie it on the power play, then go up 5-4 with another goal from Shipton. Jeff Fast would get the only goal of the third, to seal the deal 6-4 for Fort St. John.
The Flyers outshot the Canucks 32-23.
The Canucks are done for 2013, but start up again right away as they get a rematch against the Flyers Jan. 2 at home, then host the Hythe Mustangs the following night.
"It's been a long stretch of December," Redfearn said, adding the team's looking forward to a short break over the holidays. "We've had two-game stints here for the past three weeks and right after Christmas we'll get right back into it again.
"We've played a good season. We have a very strong power play, I want to say we're second in the league with 78 per cent, which is great. We're really doing well there and our penalty kill is also doing well, so there are a lot of positives to take away from the first part of the season."
The Senior Canucks currently sit in fourth in the NPHL's West Division with a 6-7-0 record.
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