by Ted Stephens – Special to Sylvan Lake News
Sylvan Lake Admirals travelled to the Stony Plain Eagles barn to determine 4th place in the Chinook Hockey League, Saturday.
Both teams have struggled with the loss of key players this season and both teams were winless in their first four games.
The Admirals have been improving each game, as new players are added to the lineup, filling in the missing pieces to the puzzle.
Just as the Admirals thought they had the right ingredients to mount a 60 minute effort, the Remembrance Day long weekend saw five players scratched from the lineup with work commitments, two suspended and two more deciding to hang up their skates from AAA hockey.
Senior hockey can be fickle at times as you are at the mercy of jobs and commitments far beyond the dressing room. Be that as it may, games need to be played, teams need to be iced and this game was no exception. Put together the best you have and play the game with heart.
There was nothing smooth about the game from the drop of the puck. Normal crisp passes were off the mark, either too far behind or too far ahead. Neither the Admirals nor Stony Plain Eagles seemed to be able to find the right gear and the Eagles scored first at the 10:15 mark, having outshot the Admirals 9-4 to that point.
The Admirals were not really being outplayed but were giving up the puck on errant passes and losing any chances of keeping the pressure on. To complicate things even more, a head check to defenseman Barrett Brook took him out of the game at 8:87 and the ensuing heated scrum left Cody Esposito with a minor and a 10 minute misconduct. The already short bench of 15 got real short as only three defensemen were left on the bench.
Even short, the Admirals began to find a bit of a groove and the speed of Jeff Young, along with the aggressive checking of Brendan Baumgartner, had the Eagles flustered. That combination soon had control of the puck and Jeff Young made no mistake burying a crisp pass from Brendan Baumgartner and Kurtis Ross at 4:47.
The period ended tied 1-1 and the Admirals outshooting the Eagles 15-14.
The second period seemed to begin as a repeat of the first and the Admirals were flat footed and sloppy. More turnovers and poor decisions had the Eagles in control and they took full advantage, taking a 2-1 lead at the 18:37 mark.
Once again the Admirals were outshot 6-1 in the early going of the second before finding wind in their sails and turning it around.
The Eagles didn’t help their cause when they got caught with too many men, giving the Admirals their second power play opportunity of the game. This time the Admirals were patient and moved the puck with authority, looking for the opening. D man Curt Leinweiber found the mark at 12:42 from Turner Lachance and Kurtis Ross, tying the game.
The Eagles got in penalty trouble again at 11:20 and the Admirals quickly capitalized at 10:53 when Paul Maily banged it home from Brendan Baumgartner. Admirals were now skating hard and although the game was sloppy for both teams, the Admirals held the edge with their speed and aggressive forechecking.
Dividends quickly came their way as Brandon Knelsen drilled one between the pipes at 9:36 with assists going to Travis McMillan and Paul Mailey. The Eagles narrowly escaped another Admirals’ power play at 8:13 before once again putting themselves in the hole with a tripping call at 4:52. This time there was no escape as the Admirals power play was clicking and Cody Esposito, from the point, rifled home a laser, top corner, just inside the post, on a pass from Turner Lachance at 4:14.
The period ended with the Admirals leading 5-2 and shots in their favour 18-14.
At the start of the third is was apparent the Eagles hadn’t given up just yet and they turned up the heat.
The Admirals were tiring and simple mistakes were being made. They managed to hold their own through the first ten minutes, which included fending off a determined power play effort by the Eagles but another penalty at 10:03 wasn’t as successful and the Eagles scored at 9:39.
Play seemed to settle down and appeared to be equal in either end until Ernie Stewart found a burst of speed at the 7:46 mark. Taking a pass on the fly from Branden Gay and Cody Esposito, he blew past the surprised Eagles defense and backhanded a quick shot into the mesh, 6-3 Admirals.
It should have been over and it looked like it was all done with the Admirals battling off another penalty at the 5:55 mark but a determined Eagles bench saw it differently.
Taking advantage of the mental lapses and tired legs of the Admirals, who were down to 13 skaters since the 5:55 mark, the Eagles poured on their best effort of the game. Shots were flying from everywhere and the Admirals failed to clear the puck.
With 1:39 to go the Eagles struck to make it 6-4 and 43 seconds later, the Admirals defense got caught flat footed, giving up goal five to the Eagles.
The Admirals jolted back to reality and closed the game without further scoring.
Final score 6-5 Admirals and shots recorded 42-41, Admirals after having been outshot 14-8 by the Eagles in the third.
“Not a pretty win,” said Coach Jason Stephens. “It was ugly and rough, to say the least, but sometimes a win is a win and that’s all you can say for it, however it is definitely nice to get on the board and moving forward.
“Neither team played particularly well tonight and it was up for grabs as to who was going to take control. Fortunately our power play was clicking and our penalty kill was decent. Those two things alone made a big difference on the score sheet.
“We showed flashes of what we’re capable of doing and I hope that carries forward into the next game. We play Stony again at our barn and you can be assured they don’t want to go 0-6, so we’ll have our hands full. I think after this win our room will have a lot more motivation and we’ll have a full line up, so I’m confident that if the boys play like they’re capable, we’ll be in good shape.”
Next home game is tomorrow (Friday) at the Sylvan Lake multiplex. Game time 8:30 p.m. against Stony Plain Eagles.