The Airdrie Xtreme finished off October with its most impressive game of the Alberta Major Bantam Hockey League season, with a 9-2 victory against the Red Deer Rebels.
Although the team is holding a Ram South Division-leading 8-1-3 record, head coach Dave Millard said the team was struggling with consistent play and gelling as a unit early on in the season.
“Consistency and discipline have been our two issues this season,” he said.
“This was a big game because they were only two points behind us.”
Since suffering its first and only loss of the season Oct. 1, the Xtreme has been working to be an offensive threat, and its convincing win over the Rebels showed just how good the team could be.
Despite its only setback at the start of October and a 5-1-1 record, the team struggled to get the win against the 2-6-3 Okotoks Oilers and had to settle for a tie for the second time this season Oct. 22.
“It would have been tough if we would have come out with the same effort we gave Okotoks,” Millard said. “The boys stepped up and gave every one of us something today.
“That’s what’s going to be required, this is a tough league. You can’t take shifts and periods off.”
Millard said the team’s ability to bounce back from the Oilers letdown in the 9-2 win served as motivation for the team to continue its strong play.
“I still think there is more to give. Today was a good step,” Millard said. “This should have been here four games ago.”
Ty Mueller, who returned from injury earlier in October, found himself behind the rest of his teammates in the first few games but stood out Oct. 28.
Mueller was a key contributor, potting a pair of goals, one of which was on the powerplay.
“(Mueller) was still trying to find his way and today was the first day we started the real Ty Mueller,” Millard said.
Millard added he and his coaching staff rearranged the lines heading into the game to spread out the Xtreme’s top producers, Craig Armstrong and Brett Moravec, which resulted in the team’s best offensive output of the season.
With the victory, the Xtreme takes hold of top spot in the Ram South Division, one point clear of the Lethbridge Val Matteoti Golden Hawks with a game in hand.
Airdrie returns to action Nov. 4 when it welcomes the Calgary Royals to the Ron Ebbesen Arena at 4:15 p.m.
The Xtreme will then get an opportunity to avenge its lone loss when it heads south to Lethbridge Nov. 5 and takes on the Golden Hawks in a battle between the top two teams in the division.
“(Lethbridge) physically out-manned us and we had our feet stop moving the last time we played them,” Millard said. “We need to be prepared, it’s going to be physical and we know what we’re going up against this time.”