The St. Albert Sabres were swept away by the Sherwood Park Flyers in their season series in the Alberta Major Bantam Hockey League.
The fourth loss by the Sabres (14-6-5) against the nitro north division-leading Flyers (17-2-6) was Wednesday’s 4-1 decision at Akinsdale Arena. Shots were even at 29 apiece. Special teams were the difference as the Flyers capitalized on three of seven opportunities while the home team failed to score on three power plays.
The Sabres were also given two game misconducts: checking from behind to Tyler Mrkonjic and a checking to the head major plus misconduct assessed to Michael Bruni.
Flyers’ defenders Brandon Hodge and McKenzie Busenius were both shaken up, giving the Sabres an opportunity to press on forwards playing the back end. The pair eventually returned to the ice.
“They have six really good D-men, so even when they go down to four they're strong,” said assistant coach Rob Parrotta. “We really tried to chip it by them and get it deep and get the matchups we wanted. We got some with last change, but we weren't able to capitalize.”
Despite the penalty trouble in the first and second periods, Parrotta said the Sabres were able to carry a good portion of the play for the first 40 minutes.
“We had a good practice Tuesday and we worked on some of those issues: getting pucks deep and chipping on them. We did that really well in the first and a good bit of the second but then we got into a little bit of penalty trouble and we started running around. We have to stay more disciplined as a team and adapt to the ref. If that's what he's calling, we have to adapt,” Parrotta said. “We've been in that situation before where we haven't adapted and the score shows what happens when you don't play disciplined hockey.”
The Flyers scored on the major to Bruni at 12:44 of the first, as Cameron Gotaas lifted the puck past Mitch Martell and under the crossbar from in tight.
The Sabres came back with intent in the second and had a couple of key opportunities to score. Jake Mykitiuk fed Luke Mahura through a scramble five minutes in that Mahura missed. Five minutes later, Mahura had an opportunity in tight that Tyler Fuhr managed to get the left pad on.
Halfway through the frame, Mahura finally broke through on a breakaway and tucked a neat backhand up and above, past Fuhr’s right pad.
Ryan Kruper capitalized on the second of Jeff Harrison’s three penalties in the game, going high glove with a couple of Sabres caught out of position on the kill.
“He's been really good for us this year. It's a hiccup for him and I'm sure he'll learn from [the penalties],” Parrotta said.
With five minutes left in the second, Mahura tried the same move on a second breakaway. This time Fuhr challenged and dove out with the poke check.
“I was trying to go with what worked,” Mahura said. “It didn't work the second time. I sort of saw him come out, but I didn't know he'd challenge that far and poke check. He's a very good goalie and that's what good goaltenders do. They read the play.”
After that, Parrotta said the team struggled with frustration.
“He's a goalie that's coming up big for them. He seems to have our number so far this year and he made some really big stops on 10-bell opportunities when we were in alone. Those end up coming back to haunt you. “
Greg Chase notched his first of the third period at 4:13, picking up a loose puck in traffic and roofing it glove side. Halfway through the frame, he caught Martell moving across the net and reversed the flow, putting the puck to his backhand and lifting it glove side.
Just after Chase’s second, Mahura decked a Flyer at the defensive blue line and had a few words to say to the downed player afterwards.
“We couldn't find a way to get it in the back of the net [then we would get penalized]. Everything started building and I was trying to get my team going at that point,” said the assistant captain. “The difference was the power play. If we eliminate those, it's a tie game and we can take the lead. We need to regroup and figure out what's causing [the lack of discipline]. If we have to sit guys to get it in their head that we can't take two or three penalties in a row, then we need to do that.”
The Sabres are back in action against the Canadian Athletic Club (2-20-3) Monday at 8:30 p.m. at Coronation Arena. It’s also their last game before the John Reid Memorial Tournament, starting Thursday at Servus Credit Union Place.
“Right now stuff isn't going for us, but we need to stay positive and come with a new energy to practices and the next game,” Mahura said.
The Sabres will get back to the basics at practices leading up to the contest.
“We'll go back to the board and get offensive zone tactics worked on, as well as our D-zone too. We've been panicking the last couple games and doing other people's jobs in our end. It’s been forwards trying to compensate for the defence, but we've been getting two D-men caught behind the net too. If that's going to happen, we have to communicate. Ultimately, we have to trust each other,” Parrotta said.