Airdrie Xtreme ready for regular season finale against playoff foes
Thursday, Feb 09, 2017 10:28 am
The Airdrie Xtreme bantam hockey team is riding a wave of momentum heading into the final weekend of the regular season, following an impressive first two games in February.
With the final standings of the Ram South Division set in stone, the Xtreme know who they will face in the first round, but this year they have a different level of confidence surrounding them.
“It’s a completely different feel from last year. We’re a lot more confident,” assistant coach Reid Hnatowich said. “The big thing with our division, other than Medicine Hat, anyone can beat anyone else.
“It’s just a matter of who is willing to show up come game time.”
This season has been the Xtreme’s best offensively since Hnatowich and head coach Dave Millard took over behind the bench. The team is in the top half of goals for, with 122 in 24 games. The team’s wins and point totals also took a major spike in the three years of Millard and Hnatowich. They have 15 wins, up from last season’s five, and 34 points, which is just one point shy of the 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons combined.
“We’re pretty young in terms of our roster, but our youth has brought a work ethic (that works),” Hnatowich said. “If we show up in the playoffs with the mindset and mentality that we can put forth the effort to win, we will accomplish it.”
After an impressive December where the team went 5-1-1 and a strong start to January, winning two of its first three games of the month, the team hit a bit of a slide to close out January, going 0-2-1.
Although the team suffered a setback and found itself locked into fourth in the division, Hnatowich said he is happy the team hit this wall when it did instead of having it happen closer to the playoffs.
“Every team is going to have that hurdle that they have to get over,” Hnatowich said. “I’m happy that it happened then and not heading into playoffs.”
The Xtreme bounced back in a big way to start February, earning a tie against division rival Rocky Mountain Raiders on Feb. 4 and a convincing 5-2 win over the Calgary Royals.
“We had a total team effort (this past weekend), everyone was pulling their weight and putting forth an effort every single shift,” Hnatowich said. “Going into playoffs, that’s all you can ask for.
“Everyone is willing and able to do their jobs and that’s what we got this weekend.”
The Xtreme now turn its attention to the Feb. 10 weekend where it will first take on the team it faces in the first round of the Alberta Major Bantam Hockey League playoffs, the Lethbridge Val Matteoti Golden Hawks. The Xtreme then wraps up its regular season with a road game against the Red Deer Rebels on Feb. 12.
Hnatowich added having a strong showing against the division winners on Feb. 10 is the utmost importance for the team as it can be used as a tone-setting game for the playoff matchup which begins on Feb. 15 in Lethbridge.
“As much of a playoff mentality as we need going into (the post-season),” Hnatowich said. “We need a very similar effort (to this past weekend).
“We need all 19 of our guys going to set the tone and be as hard to play against as possible, so come our first playoff game they know that they’re in store for some tough competition.”