Airdrie Xtreme focused on complete team effort

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The Airdrie Xtreme completed its busiest portion of the 2017-18 Alberta Major Bantam Hockey League (AMBHL) season with five games in eight days.

Although the team suffered a pair of losses, dropping its record to 19-3-5, assistant coach Reid Hnatowich said setbacks do happen in hockey and he is more focused on how the team responds moving forward.

“The thing for any team in any league, is as you progress it becomes less about skill differential and more about the team game,” Hnatowich said. “With as skilled of a team as we had, we were able to put forth a 20-minute or 40-minute effort and still come out with the victory…. Now our group of skilled players realized it takes an entire group 60-minute effort.”

The Xtreme didn’t dwell on bad results, answering its two losses with strong outings in the following games, including a 5-1 victory Jan. 10 against the Calgary Northstars.

Hnatowich said the Xtreme’s problem wasn’t an outright bad game in either of the losses, instead he said it’s more of the team having bad moments.

In the most recent loss – a 2-1 decision against the Red Deer Rebels Jan. 9 – the Xtreme had a tough start to the game, giving up a pair of goals in the first 35 seconds.

“That is an example of needing that total 60-minute effort,” Hnatowich said. “That 30 seconds made the entire difference in that game.

“It was a lack of preparation and focus…. In the matter of 30 seconds we were playing catchup that entire game.”

Airdrie cut the lead in half with a first-minute goal in the second period, but that was as close as it would get that evening.

Since dropping a loss to the Rebels, the Xtreme have been a more motivated team, stringing together a pair of wins against the Northstars (Jan. 10) and Okotoks Oilers (Jan. 14), and outscoring its opponents 15-2.

Although the team has picked up the slack since the Jan. 9 defeat, Hnatowich said the Xtreme still go through highs and lows within its games and he would like to see more steady and consistent play as the playoffs draw near.

The Xtreme will have a week break from regular season play, as the team prepares to take part in the annual John Reid Memorial Tournament in St. Albert, where it will compete amongst some of the best bantam AAA teams from Canada and the United States.

First up in the tournament is a matchup against the Northern Alberta Xtreme Jan. 18, followed Jan. 19 with showdowns against the other two teams in its division – the Sherwood Park Flyers and the Okanagan Hockey Academy Penticton.

Hnatowich stressed the importantance of getting off to a hot start in the short tournament.

“Everyone needs to be on board every time they step on the ice,” Hnatowich said. “If we can come out of this weekend confident, healthy and at the end of the weekend everyone can say they put forth their best effort, I consider that an accomplishment.”

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