CALGARY, ALTA, (March 4, 2019) - Playoff time means putting the regular season behind you, and that's exactly what the SAIT Trojans men's hockey team is aiming to do.
The Trojans find themselves limping into the post-season after losing six of their last seven games to close out the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference (ACAC) regular season - including a tough 7-6 double overtime loss to the University of Alberta-Augustana Vikings on Saturday night.
"Like the old cliche says, the new season has started, so we going to focus on that," said Trojans head coach, Brent Devost. "We have gone on winning streaks and battled through some slumps, so hopefully we learn from those last little bumps along the road. . . I liked our effort on Saturday, and although the outcome has not been what we would have wanted the last couple of games, we are seeing some positives."
The late-season slide dropped the Trojans from second to fifth place in the ACAC standings, forcing them play, coincidentally, the fourth-ranked Vikings in a quarter-final best-of-three series that begins Thursday night in Camrose, Alta., At 6pm.
Augustana won the season-series 3-1, with SAIT's lone win actually coming on the road in Camrose. Last season, it was the Vikings who eliminated the Trojans in this same quarter-final series, 2-0.
"We have a lot to prove, and usually that's a good thing," Devost said about the quick rematch with Augustana. "We're certainly not going to head into Game 1 over confident and/or complacent. We want to prove that the first three-quarters of the season wasn't just a mirage."
Game 2 will be played at SAIT on Friday at 7pm, while Game 3 (if needed) will go back in Camrose on Sunday night.
Offensively, the Trojans match up well against any one of the six teams that have progressed to the post-season. Their 4.42 goals per game average is the highest the team has produced since the 2015 season (4.43), in which they captured an ACAC silver medal.
Captain Dean Allison led the ACAC in scoring, mustering up 38 points — 13 goals and a league-best 25 assists — in 28 games. Teammates Colton McCarthy (34 points) and Eric Krienke (33 points) finished tied for fourth, and tied for sixth, respectively.
Krienke's 18 goals tied him for the league lead with Red Deer College's Chase Thudium.
Defensively, on the other hand, Devost says the Trojans have not been as sharp as they were earlier in the season.
"Collectively, we need to tighten up in our own zone and when that slaps you in the face, you can either run and hide or respond to it. I think the guys are ready to respond to it," he stated. "The guys understand where we are giving up a little too much. We had three or four leads against the Vikings in those last two games against them, but we just couldn't close."
When Game 2 comes around Friday night in Calgary, Devost hopes it is his team that is in the driver's seat with the opportunity to end the series.
"I think it's very important," he said when asked how integral it is to win Game 1. "We know what we want to do when we go there; we want to put forth the best effort we can and build off of the best things we were doing to pounce on them and get those leads. We came out hard with lots of energy in those last few games, and we'll need to do that again."