The Airdrie Xtreme is playing like a much more confident team as the Alberta Major Bantam Hockey League (AMBHL) season reaches the midway point.
The Xtreme played a pair of very different contests Dec. 2 and 3, dominating the Camrose Red Wings on the road and requiring a comeback effort against the Fort Saskatchewan Rangers to increase its winning streak to five games. The wins continue the team’s trend of earning at least a point in each game since its lone loss of the season Oct. 1.
“There is always room to improve. Game by game we’re getting better,” assistant coach Reid Hnatowich said.
“What’s big with this group that’s been different in the past is…they’re never satisfied, they’re always looking to improve and that’s the reason we’ve had so much success.”
In its first game of the weekend Dec. 2, the Xtreme jumped out to an early lead, scoring a trio of goals in the opening frame – including two goals in the span of 30 seconds – to put the Red Wings in a hole it couldn’t get out of.
Another three-goal period in the second all but secured the victory for the Xtreme. Once again the team’s offence was fast and furious scoring a pair of goals just seconds apart in the dying minutes of the frame.
A seventh goal for the Xtreme put the game well out of reach in the third period. The team suffered its lone setback midway through the period when netminder Nathan Airey had his shutout bid extinguished by a Red Wings goal, setting the final at 7-1.
“That was a night where everyone got involved and everyone contributed, and it was a good defensive game,” Hnatowich said. “(Having the shutout bid end) is disappointing…. For the kids alone it would have been nice to earn him a shutout, but (Airey) was quite happy with how the team played in front of him that night.”
The Xtreme was tested in its second game Dec. 3 against the Rangers at Ron Ebbesen Arena. For the first time since Nov. 4, the Xtreme was not the team to open the scoring, with the Rangers taking a 2-0 lead midway through the opening frame.
The Xtreme cut the Rangers lead in half with a late-period goal from Brett Moravec to trail 2-1 after the first 20 minutes.
A power-play goal by the Rangers regained the two-goal lead, but the Xtreme’s confidence shined through as it roared back with a pair of goals from Tegan Skehar and Ethan Tinevez to knot the game up 3-3 heading into the final frame.
The Xtreme dominated its opponent in the third, outshooting 22-5 with Freddie Halyk turning away each shot he faced and Moravec completing the comeback, scoring the lone goal of the frame to give the Xtreme the 4-3 victory.
Even when his team struggles in the early stages of a game, Hnatowich said players have a swagger and know they can come back and take a victory from a bad situation. The 4-3 victory Dec. 3 was no different.
“We didn’t start the way we should have, but we finished strong and at this point, that’s what matters,” Hnatowich said. “Any chance we get in games like that where we can make it a learning point is going to do nothing but better us.”
The Xtreme returns to action Dec. 9 when it heads on the road to take on the Lethbridge Val Matteoti Golden Hawks in a key Ram South Division matchup.