The Airdrie Xtreme is in the midst of its Alberta Major Bantam Hockey League (AMBHL) playoff run, clearing the first round in a two-game sweep and on the verge of a second sweep in the Ram South Division Finals.
The Xtreme are looking like the well-oiled machine the team was expected to be heading into the post-season, sitting one game up on the Lethbridge Val Matteoti Golden Hawks (as of Feb. 27).
“It is extremely important we are focused and ready to go,” said assistant coach Reid Hnatowich.
“The quicker we eliminate (Lethbridge), the better it is for us in terms of preparation of the next series.”
Backed by a 23-save shutout effort by Nathan Airey and bolstered by the return of Brett Moravec, the Xtreme knocked off the Golden Hawks Feb. 25 in convincing 4-0 fashion to put it in the driver’s seat for the second round.
After missing close to a month with a wrist injury, Moravec found himself back in the lineup in Game 1, reuniting with Tristan Zandee and earning an assist on one of Zandee’s two goals.
Hnatowich said Moravec’s return was an important boost and will provide depth to the Xtreme’s attack.
“(Moravec) is a very important player for this hockey team,” Hnatowich said. “Being away from (the game) that long, there is always going to be those slip ups, but in terms of his play, he handled it like a professional.”
Though the Xtreme took the sweep in the first round, it wasn’t without its challenges. Hnatowich said the two games against the Southeast Athletic Club Tigers served as learning opportunities.
Although the team won 6-3 and 6-0 respectively, it dealt with some issues on the ice, including competing for a complete game and staying focused on details and discipline issues.
“Going into that series, we were expected to win,” Hnatowich said. “Those two learning points…will stick with us throughout the entire playoff run and, hopefully, it’s a long one.”
Game 2 was scheduled for Feb. 27 in Lethbridge (after press time). If Game 3 is required, it is set to be held at Ron Ebbesen Arena Feb. 28.