| Posted: Saturday, Oct 06, 2012 06:00 am
The St. Albert Slash has had little trouble outshooting opponents this season, but coming up with goals hasn’t been quite as easy.
The midget AAA female hockey team has racked up three wins, two losses and one tie in its first six games.
“Our defence has been really good so far,” said head coach Phil Webb. “We’ve kept the puck out of the net and kept the shots quite low. The two games we have lost, we’ve outshot the opponent by quite a large margin. We just haven’t put the puck in the net.”
That was the story last Sunday at the inaugural Female Hockey Challenge in Lethbridge when St. Albert outshot Calgary 48-18 but lost the game 3-2.
“We gave up three goals early, fought back, made it 3-2 and we dominated the whole game, but just couldn’t put the puck in the net,” Webb said.
St. Albert’s other game at the weekend showcase event was against the arch-rival Edmonton Thunder in a showdown that ended in a 2-2 tie.
The Slash currently sit in second place in the Alberta Major Midget Female Hockey League North Division standings, one spot behind Edmonton.
This is Webb’s first year behind the bench with the midget AAA Slash team and he said the coaching staff is emphasizing both consistency and defensive responsibility, keeping heavy pressure on the puck.
They are also focusing on power plays and penalty kills. While special teams started out strong for the Slash, they’ve tapered off a bit, Webb said.
“The special teams is huge and we’re spending a lot of time on that right now trying to get our set-up down and all the aspects of power plays,” Webb said.
In practice on Tuesday the team was also looking to improve on its finish around the net.
“We just threw a lot of pucks at the net looking for rebounds, and looking to pull it away from the goalie and get it up above, under the bar instead of jamming it back into the goalie,” Webb said. “ I think having the twins back will definitely help that. They are very offensive players and they’ve got a strong finish so that’ll complement what we have on the defensive side of the game.”
The twins are Ashley and Deanna Morin of Fort Saskatchewan, both of whom were selected to Team Alberta’s roster for the National Women’s Under-18 Championship. The Slash will be without the sisters again when they compete in the U18 championship Nov. 9 to 11 in Dawson Creek, B.C.
The Morin twins are among a number of strong veteran players who have been outstanding leaders so far this season, Webb said.
“I’m very happy with the group and how they’ve done such a good job of making sure the first year players are comfortable, and they’re part of the team,” Webb said. “I’m pretty excited about the way they’ve reacted to the first year players.”
Webb’s coaching style means “lots of responsibility to all the players so that everybody feels a part of the team, and either you’re going to be on special teams on the power play or special teams on the penalty kill so it’s one or the other,” he said. “And, at this time of year we’re obviously trying to find a comfort level for everybody so that we understand the players and the players understand us.”
Though the head coach has been behind the bench for more than a dozen years with both boys and girls teams, this season marks the first time that he will be coaching his daughter instead of his son. Webb’s daughter Megan is part of the Slash defence.
Webb said there are definite differences between male and female hockey, both on the ice and behind the bench.
“I think sometimes girls learn a little bit different, because they may not get it from being drawn on a board, but if you demo it, they generally do it exactly how you want them to do it.”
With no body checking, the on-ice strategy in female hockey is also different from the male game.
“Obviously the physical side of the game is taken out, which kind of changes how you play because obviously if you can’t take a player out you’ve got to attack them differently – more stick stuff,” said Webb. “You’ve got to work on your angling a bit more to force your opponents into bad spots on the ice so that they have no choice but to release the puck.”
The Slash travel to Spruce Grove for their next game on Friday against the Saints at 6:30 p.m.