High octane Xtreme still in the process of becoming great

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After getting off to a sluggish start, the Airdrie Xtreme have seen better play through October and continues to be a top team in the Alberta Major Bantam Hockey League (AMBHL).

The team suffered its firs only loss of the season in its first game of October, but followed up with four wins and a tie, reaffirming it as the team to beat.

Although the team is playing much better, assistant coach Reid Hnatowich said there is still work to do to get to the 2018 Western Canada Bantam AAA Championship.

“It’s a process and it is getting better. As of now I still think we’re lacking consistency from game to game and shift to shift,” Hnatowich said. “It’s still not at the standard of what we need it to be heading forward.”

Though the Xtreme jumped out to a 3-0-2 record in September, Hnatowich said the team wasn’t playing to the level that was expected of the group.

Following its loss Oct. 1, the Xtreme faced another stiff contest against the Calgary Bisons Oct. 11, where it won 3-2 two over the Challenger South Division leader.

“That was a huge test for us. If you look at the rosters and who our top competitiors are going to be, it would be the Bisons,” Hnatowich said. “Playing them and having success, especially in an away game on a Wednesday night – which typically we haven’t had success with – was huge for us.”

Since the win, the Xtreme’s offence has began to roll, outscoring its opponents 16-7 in its next three games, led by the play of second-year forward Craig Armstrong.

In 10 games this season, Armstrong has 18 points (11g, 7a), which puts him second in the AMBHL points race – one point back of Conner Furukawa of the Lethbridge Val Matteoti Golden Hawks, with two less games played.

With four-straight wins following the Oct. 1 loss, the Xtreme was dealt a disappointing blow when its streak was halted by a 2-2 tie Oct. 22 against the Okotoks Oilers Oct. 22.

Hnatowich admitted his team needed to be better against its divisional foe, but said disapointing results like that will help motivate the team as the season progresses.

This year, the Xtreme finds itself in one of the more competitive divisions in the AMBHL. Three of the top five south teams play within the Ram South Division; the Xtreme with 17 points, Golden Hawks at 16 points and Red Deer Rebels with 14.

“The better competition we play, the better it’s going to prepare us come playoff time,” Hnatowich said.

The Xtreme continues its season, Oct. 28 when it welcomes the Rebels to Ron Ebbesen Arena at 4:15 p.m.

Hnatowich said a win over a tough divisional rival like Red Deer is a crucial step forward for his team’s confidence.

“The dressing room is excited for (the game), it’s going to be a tough test,” Hnatowich said. “We need to showcase our work ethic and continue on that consistency we’re striving for if we want to have success.”

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