Airdrie Xtreme gearing up for AMBHL playoffs
By: Lucas Punkari
| Posted: Thursday, Jan 30, 2014 01:18 pm
With just four games left until the Alberta Major Bantam Hockey League (AMBHL) playoffs get underway, Airdrie Xtreme Head Coach Josh Zimmer wants to see a strong effort from his team in their final contests of the 2013/14 regular season.
“We’re getting down to crunch time here, and the guys don’t have a whole lot of time to figure things out before the playoffs begin,” he said.
“I don’t question the heart or character of the guys at all, as they have shown that all year long, but we just need to find ways to get to those dirty areas of the ice a little better.”
Although the Xtreme have already qualified for the post-season, it sits in third place in the Ram South Division standings with a 13-12-3 record heading into a game in Calgary on Jan. 29 against the Calgary Northstar Sabres.
While the Xtreme still have an outside shot of finishing in the top spot in the division, the team will likely finish in second or third in the standings, setting them up for a playoff date with the Red Deer White Rebels the weekend of Feb. 14.
“When you get to the playoffs it doesn’t matter who you play or where the game is, as you have to get the job done,” Zimmer said.
“We have matched up well against Red Deer for most of the year, and they have a really strong goaltender (Dawson Weatherill) who will be a good test for us if that is who we will face in a best-of-three series.”
In its most recent meeting with the White Rebels in Red Deer on Jan. 25, the Xtreme had a game players would like to forget, as they dropped a 5-1 decision.
Zachary Cox had the only goal for the Xtreme in the loss.
“Our start was really good and we came out on fire, but they got three goals in the first period to really put the wind out of our sails,” Zimmer said.
“It’s always tough to go down 3-0 in the first period, especially with everyone playing strong at this point of the season.”
On Jan. 26, the Xtreme looked destined to drop another game as it trailed the Grand Prairie Storm by 4-2 with six minutes left in the third period at the Ron Ebbesen Arena.
However, the team roared back to tie the game up at four goals a piece, only to see the Storm retake the lead with four minutes remaining.
With just 3:25 left to go in regulation time, Xtreme forward Gary Haden fired a shot that found the back of the net to give the home side a dramatic 5-5 tie that will go down as one of the team’s wildest games so far this season.
“I was really proud of how the guys just never gave up after getting behind by a couple of goals,” Zimmer said.
“We’ve been in those situations on a number of occasions this year, but to be down like that with only a few minutes left and to end up in a 5-5 tie was one of the craziest things that I have seen.”
“I’m really glad to see that we didn’t quit and the guys stuck with the game plan to salvage a point,” he added.
Tyler Petrie potted a pair of goals for the Xtreme in the tie, while teammates Cody Gibson and Brandon Machado also scored.
The Xtreme will host its final two home games of the regular season this weekend at the Ron Ebbesen Arena, against the Red Deer Black Rebels on Feb. 1 at 7:15 p.m. and the PAC Saints of Spruce Grove at 1 p.m. on Feb. 2.