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Airdrie Xtreme players hope to continue strong performances

By: Lucas Punkari

  |  Posted: Thursday, Dec 26, 2013 06:00 am

Gary Haden celebrated after he found the back of the net during a game against the Lethbridge Golden Hawks on Dec. 15.
Gary Haden celebrated after he found the back of the net during a game against the Lethbridge Golden Hawks on Dec. 15.
Lucas Punkari/Rocky View Publishing

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The slow start to the Alberta Major Bantam Hockey League (AMBHL) season for the Airdrie Xtreme is now a thing of the past.

Heading into its final two road AMBHL games before the holiday break against the Calgary Bisons and the Camrose Vikings on Dec. 21 and 22 (after press time), the Xtreme are in third place in the Ram South division with an 11-9-2 record and 24 points, and are just two points behind the division leading Red Deer White Rebels.

“We have been talking all year long about this being a marathon and not a sprint for the guys,” Xtreme Head Coach Josh Zimmer said.

“We had a 2-5 record in our first seven games, and we have been well above the .500 mark since then.”

“Our main concern isn’t the results but more about the quality of our record, and while we have had a 5-0-1 record in our last six games, we know that we still have a long way to go,” he added.

The players themselves have noticed their own improvements during the Xtreme’s recent run of success, especially when it comes to their own positions.

“The forwards have been winning the little battles here lately, and I think that is always the key if you want to have any success,” Didsbury native and Xtreme forward Mitchell Visser said.

“We have all become more used to one another as well, so we have a really good chemistry.”

“Our defensive zone communication has become a lot better, especially when you are moving the puck back and forth between one another,” Airdrie resident and Xtreme blueliner Ryan Straschnitzki added. “All of us are in a good mindset right now, and I think you can see that on the ice.”

In its last two home games before the holiday break, the Xtreme won a pair of games at the Ron Ebbesen Arena, as it edged the Calgary Northstar Sabres 2-1 on Dec. 14 and defeated the Lethbridge Golden Hawks in a 5-3 contest on Dec. 15.

“I thought our compete level and our puck battling were a little bit better against the Sabres, but we found a way to work through our challenges against Lethbridge to get the win,” Zimmer said. “We are starting to win the close games now, which is awesome to see, as the one goal games wouldn’t go our way at the start of the season.”

Prior to its return to AMBHL league play, which will be in Calgary on Jan. 8, 2014 against the Calgary Royals, the Xtreme will be heading to Kamloops to take part in the Kamloops International Bantam Ice Hockey Tournament from Jan. 1 to 5.

“It’s a very prestigious tournament, and it’s a real honour to be able to go to it,” Zimmer said. “There will be teams from all over the United States and Canada in the tournament, and I’m excited to see how we will stack up against those teams that we don’t face on a regular basis.”

The next home game for the Xtreme will be on Jan. 12, 2014 when they will host the Calgary Northwest Flames at 1 p.m.


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