The Airdrie Xtreme returned to action after the holiday break with mixed results Jan. 6 and 7, dropping a crucial game to the Calgary Bisons but bouncing back with a massive decision over the Calgary Flames the next day.
As one of the teams in the upper-echelon of the Alberta Major Bantam Hockey League (AMBHL) this season, the Airdrie Xtreme had suffered only one loss prior to the Jan. 6 game.
“It was a tough loss. I thought we could have won that game” captain Keagan Slaney said. “We need to get on the defence a little bit harder, be hungry on the forecheck and clean up defensively.”
In a back-and-forth battle, it was a lone goal by the Bisons in the third that proved to be the difference maker between the top two teams in the south divisions. The Bisons went on to take a 3-2 victory over the Xtreme and cemented its point-lead over the high-flying Airdrie squad.
Although the Xtreme dropped the decision, Slaney said he believed his team played well and deserved to win against the Bisons for the second time in as many games.
However, the Xtreme didn’t have much time to dwell on the setback as it returned to action Jan. 7 against the Calgary Flames.
The team got out to an uncharacteristically slow start, giving up an early goal to the Flames, but dominated the rest of the opening frame – outshooting its opponent 13-4, but failing to get a puck past the opposing netminder.
“Coach said we had to stick to our game and keep it going. There was nothing to worry about, there was still 40 minutes left,” Slaney said. “There wasn’t much frustration, it was only 1-0 – no big deal. …We just needed to work with it and keep it going.”
In the middle stanza, the Xtreme finally solved the strong play of the Flames netminder Joshua McLoughlin racking up three goals – including a pair from Ty Mueller and one from Nathan Ellis – to take a comfortable 3-1 lead into the second intermission.
The Xtreme continued to dominate in the third with top goal-getter Craig Armstrong scoring a power-play goal, Josh Davies and Slaney potting in a goal each, and Mueller completing the hat trick en route to the 7-1 victory.
The Xtreme are currently in its busiest stretch of hockey, playing four games in five days, taking on the Red Deer Rebels Jan. 9 and the Calgary Northstars Jan. 10 (both games after press).
Although it is a busy stretch, Slaney said he has full confidence in his team being able to perform well in such a short period.
“It’s been a tough season so far. We’ve been working hard in practice and games. We’re ready to go,” Slaney said.
The Xtreme return to action 1:30 p.m., Jan. 14 when it plays host to the Okotoks Oilers at Ron Ebbesen Arena.