Airdrie Xtreme eliminated in playoff semi-finals
The Airdrie Xtreme’s 2012-2013 season came to an early end as the team bowed out of the Major Bantam Hockey League (AMBHL) division finals after losing the series 2-0 to the Lethbridge Golden Hawks in Lethbridge, Feb. 23.
The Xtreme coaching team figured the players had pushed all the playoff nerves aside after taking its opening series three games to one over the Red Deer Black and their confidence would carry it up and over its first game against Lethbridge.
But penalty kill struggles crippled the Xtreme and yielded five of Lethbridge’s six goals as the Golden Hawks downed the Xtreme 6-2, Feb. 21.
“Thursday we just didn’t play well,” said Xtreme head coach Terry Keogh. “Most of the season our penalty kill was very strong, but we just didn’t execute well.”
Tristan Paquette and Jordan McConnell scored for Airdrie. McConnell also had assists on both of rookie Gary Haden’s goals in Game Two, a 4-3 win for Lethbridge, while Noah Philp had Airdrie’s third goal.
“Saturday’s game could’ve gone either way,” Keogh added.
“We had opportunities to tie the game and force overtime or even opportunities to win the game, but we weren’t able to put the puck in the back of the net. We missed a couple of defence assignments and it gave Lethbridge the upper hand.”
It was a tough climb to the top of its division for the Xtreme, who finished the regular season in second place in the Ram South division, but struggled with consistency throughout the season.
“The lack of consistency in our play led to our demise,” he said.
“You can work on development all you want and we certainly did that. We showed that we could play with any team, but part of the compete level comes from within. It was our young players, like Haden and Brett Trentham, that we didn’t have to worry about their compete level.”
Haden and Trentham are two of four players who are expected to return to next year’s team along with Taylor Fawns and Landon Melzer. Keogh said that if the quartet returns, they will see the game from a new perspective.
“The game changes throughout the year and it quickly develops into a very fast-paced game,” he said.
“With the rookies returning next year, they’ll see a remarkable decrease in pace and the new players coming up will see an increase in the pace. With that speed, you can’t think. You just have to react. They’ll learn that everything has to be spontaneous because if they take the time to think, they’ll be a step behind.”
The team will have a few more chances to take to the ice this spring – mainly in preparation for the Alberta Cup, which the second-year players are eligible to compete in.
The tryouts are at the end of March and the tournament will be held in Strathmore in April.
There is also the matter of the WHL Bantam Draft, which will take place near the end of April or the beginning of May.
In keeping with Xtreme tradition, Keogh is expecting a handful of players to be drafted.