The senior ‘AA’ Eckville Eagles (9-8-1) were denied the chance to get one last home game in against Edson, despite the fact the Eagles had a fuller than necessary roster of 24 players.
“Apparently they could only assemble 7-9 guys so they didn’t feel comfortable coming,” General Manager/defensemen Reed Watts said. “It’s too bad because we could have loaned them an entire line and then some because we had a couple healthy scratches. We had guys gearing to go for the last home game and we did some work to promote the game in Town so we were upset to not have that one go. It’s too bad they didn’t make the trip.”
Part of the upset is not being able to get a good skate in before the Eagles play their five game playoff series against the Devon Oil Barons (13-4-1-1) starting this Saturday in Devon. The Eagles, however, are excited for the playoff draw they received.
“We played well against Bonnyville last weekend but just logistically – Bonnyville is a long trip whereas Devon is only an hour and a bit,” Watts said. “This series will be ideal. If you look at the website and go over standings and expanded stats – you will see they are similar to us.”
The difference between the two teams is separated by goals against; Devon allowed 21 fewer goals against the Eagles and attacking this tough defense will be key to Eckville finding success.
“They are a stout defensive team and we’ll have to bring the offensive jump we had in Bonnyville,” Watts said. “We will have to have a commitment to defense. In practice we have been focusing on the defensive side of the game.”
The defense will be about locking down NCHL standout Sorochan, who finished with 9 goals and 11 assists for 20 points in 15 games.
“If you let him onto the power play – he will burn you,” Watts said. “The last thing you want to do is give him too much time and space.”
The five game series is the second year in a row this franchise has played Devon - with their previous name, the Big Valley Oil Kings the team beat out Devon 3-2 in last year’s series. Once again, winning the first game will be crucial for the Eagles.
“Getting the first game helps set the tone and it gives you the leg up,” Watts said. “To use a baseball analogy – instead of getting down in the count with a strike, you are leading the count if they throw you a ball. You want the hitter’s count versus the pitcher’s count.”
Part of getting the hitter’s count is having a great home ice advantage on Sunday, January 22, when the Eagles host their first game at 5:15 p.m. at the Eckville Arena.
“I hope everyone who was planning to come to the one against Edson comes to this one,” Watts said. “The louder the barn the better. Anyone who has played sports knows that a large crowd is pressure. We will be rolling on Sunday and the boys are excited come home and play.”