Kodiaks looking for answers to losing skid
Ryan Hartman and the Camrose Kodiaks are looking to break their 11-game losing skid on Friday when they host the Brooks Bandits at 7 p.m
The Camrose Kodiaks are doing some soul searching after a franchise-record 11 losses in a row.
The Kodiaks are now just two points out of last place in the Alberta Junior Hockey League Viterra South Division following a 5-3 loss to the Brooks Bandits on Friday and a 4-0 loss to the Calgary Mustangs on Saturday as they dropped all five games on their road trip.
Help has arrived on the blue line with the return of defenceman Peter Kope from the Western Hockey League and the acquisition of Ryan McKinnon from the Sherwood Park Crusaders on Nov. 2. However, none of that will matter if they cannot improve their play as a group.
They held a team meeting on Sunday night to address the situation, following a basketball session with Special Olympics Camrose.
The team meeting gave every player, coach and staff member an opportunity to speak and address concerns they may have in an effort to end the losing.
“It’s very easy to point fingers when you’re going through a funk where things aren’t going well. There are a lot of positives, but everyone seems to focus on the negatives,” said head coach and general manager Boris Rybalka. “When you look internally, that’s when you’re going to become great … I give credit to the players, they took responsibility … and said we’re going to be better and execute.”
Kope is another 18-year-old defenceman who was selected in the fifth round by the Prince George Cougars in the 2014 bantam draft. He scored 25 points (eight goals, 17 assists) in 30 games with the midget AAA Canadian Athletic Club Canadians of the Alberta Midget Hockey League last season while also getting a game in with the Olds Grizzlys and the Calgary Canucks. He played five games with the Cougars, registering one assist before being sent back down to the AJHL this past week.
He joins a group of 18-year-old defenceman that have recently been added to the lineup, including Ian Dubourdieu, Carson Lux and Dawson Schwengler as Rybalka works to plug holes in the back end.
“The pieces are coming together now on the backend,” he said. “We’ve now solved those (defensive issues) and now it’s getting everybody working together on the same page.”
The addition of 20-year-old winger McKinnon for future considerations does not address any offensive issues, but gives them a reliable, high-energy forward in their bottom six who also helps address their issues on the penalty kill, which ranks 11 out of 16-teams at 78.89 per cent. He had five points (1-4-5) in 16 games before the trade, and 29 points (11-18-29) in 52 games last season split between the Canucks and the Spruce Grove Saints.
“When you have heart and desire, it’s hard to beat, because heart and desire never quits,” said Rybalka. “Ryan just works and works and works and competes and battles. … He’s got good leadership, he’s physical and he’s on the puck, he competes and battles and that’s what he’s going to bring to the rink every day.”
For the Kodiaks it is all about eliminating the little mistakes.
In Friday’s loss to the Bandits, a 32-second lapse of concentration at the end of the second period allowed Brooks to score twice and take a 4-3 lead when Camrose actually led 3-1 four minutes into the middle frame. The Bandits added an empty-netter to ice the game with 20 seconds left.
On Saturday, they played well enough despite not scoring — Ashton Abel made 30 saves for the shutout — but every mistake they made ended up behind Griffin Bowerman and in the back of the Kodiaks’ net.
“It’s a very tight, tight division and anyone can beat anyone,” said Rybalka. “You just have to find a way, find a way to win your battle, find a way to get to the net, find a way to make sure you’re strong defensively, find a way to get the shot through.”
This weekend will be another difficult test with Brooks in on Friday at 7 p.m., the Drumheller Dragons in on Saturday at 7 p.m. and the Olds Grizzlys — the only team trailing them in the South Division — in on Tuesday at 7 p.m.
Saturday night will also combine the Harvest Game with Remembrance Day. There will be a moment of silence prior to the contest to remember those who fought and died for Canada, and they will also pay tribute to local producers and the agriculture industry as a whole the rest of the night with several giveaways and contests.
First and foremost, on their minds will be turning their losing streak around.
“We can say thank you to a lot of people for allowing us to do what we do,” said Rybalka. “The best way we can thank everyone who has served is to go out and play a great game of hockey.”
NOTES – Matt Gervais, Jacob Kendall and Nic Correalle scored for the Kodiaks on Friday while Landon Pavlisin made 23 saves in the loss to the Bandits. Nic Hamre scored twice for Brooks while Louis Jamernik, Will Garin and Simon Boyko also scored. Mitchel Benson made 25 saves for the win ... On Saturday, Brad Forrest, Chase Miller, Tanner Klassen, and Joseph Karpyshyn scored for the Mustangs.