The game was essentially a tale of two halves as Grande Prairie held the edge in shots by almost a two to one margin at 20-11 halfway through the second period as they controlled most of the play. The Huskies would slowly claw back however as they picked up their game and drew even in the shot department as the final period progressed.
Head Coach Gary Alexander says that while he was happy the team competed hard, the Huskies have some work to do going forward.
“I don’t feel very good that we lost, but we played pretty par hockey with them through most of the game,” he says. “At one time we were down in shots by quite a ways but we did come back. We struggled with the pressure; we knew this was going to be a test so we learned something from it. We need to be on our game a little more.”
The game was a chippy affair throughout. There was plenty extra activity between the whistles and as the second period drew to a close as coaches from both teams had to be talked down by the officials as there was a confrontation between the benches stemming from the actions of both teams. Alexander says he expects the heated competition between the two rival teams to continue as the season progresses, but notes the Huskies must do a better job at remaining composed during intense situations.
“It’ll be the same; there’s no doubt about about it,” he explains. “There’s no love loss between us and Grande Prairie, and there never has been. Todd [Alexander] and I don’t like Grande Prairie any better than the boys do. We just have to control our emotions better against them.”
The team also had to do without Forward Owen Barker for most of the game as he was assessed a game misconduct for a slashing call. Given the timing of the penalty it forced the Huskies to juggle their lines to try and keep players as fresh as possible.
“When you lose a player like that right off the bat it changes your whole line system,” Alexander admits. “It unbalances us so we try to play three forwards in four places and they get fatigued. They get confused because they’re jumping back and forth amongst their lines; it takes away from our penalty kill and everything. We have set players we use for that and set players for powerplays and you take one of them out, its tough to get cohesive through it all.
Goalie Travis McLean had a solid night between the pipes, especially in the second period as he made a number of key saves. He turned aside 28 of 32 shots in the losing effort.
Scoring in order for Fort St. John were Cayle Bell with the first two markers, and Jayton Wieler.
The assists went to Blair Karasiuk with three, Jordan Gies, John Apsassin Wyatt Anderson.
Grande Prairie won the shot battle as well by a slim margin as they outshot Fort St. John 32-30.
The Huskies return to the ice for practices on Tuesday and Thursday before they play their second game of the year against the Sexsmith Vipers on Friday evening. You can listen the game live on Moose FM with the pregame show at 6:45, and the opening faceoff at 7 p.m.