The Airdrie Xtreme kicked off the final month of the Alberta Major Bantam Hockey League (AMBHL) season with a pair of crucially important games Feb. 3 and 4.
The team came out with just one point of a possible four against division-rival Red Deer Rebels and fellow south division powerhouse Calgary Bisons.
However, head coach Dave Millard said he was pleased with the effort he saw from his team, especially against the Bisons Feb. 4.
“Neither team wanted to give an inch…that’s playoff hockey right there,” Millard said.
“That game could have gone another hour with neither team getting a goal.”
The Xtreme started the month with a home contest against the Rebels Feb. 3, where it earned a 3-1 lead over the visiting club minutes into the second period.
The team failed to hold on to its advantage, however, giving up four unanswered goals to see its lead disappear.
Frequently, the team found itself on the penalty kill – resulting in four power play goals scored against it in the 5-3 loss.
“It was too much of an individual effort and a lack of discipline,” assistant coach Reid Hnatowich said.
“Red Deer played a better team game.”
After a disappointing loss at the hands of the second-place team in the Ram South Division, the Xtreme went on the road to Calgary for an afternoon matchup with the Bisons Feb. 4.
Despite carrying most of the play in the first half of the opening frame, the Xtreme failed to threaten for a scoring opportunity.
The Bisons opened the scoring, hammering past Nathan Airey with three minutes left in the period – taking a 1-0 lead into the first intermission.
The close contest between two of the top teams in the AMBHL continued into the middle stanza, with the Bisons defence stifling any scoring attempts by the Xtreme for most of the frame.
The Bisons’ shutout bid came to an end with just 33 seconds left in the period, when the Xtreme’s Ty Mueller potted his 17th goal of the campaign to knot the game up at 1-1.
“We were working hard and we weren’t getting rewarded for our hard work,” Millard said.
“(Mueller’s goal) was a smart play and gave our bench a little life.”
Seconds into the final period, though, Mueller was handed a game misconduct and received a five-minute major penalty for kneeing – putting the Xtreme at a disadvantage.
The team held strong and didn’t give up many chances to the high-powered offence of the Bisons, leading to no goals in the third and ending on a 1-1 tie.
“I thought it was a really good effort by our team,” Millard said.
“They deserved a better fate than a 1-1 tie.”
The Xtreme now sit just three points shy of the Rebels for first in the Ram South Division. The team will return to action Feb. 10 and 11, when it plays host to the Lloydminster Bobcats for a pair of games at Ron Ebbesen Arena.