Vikings look for rebound against RDC
University of Alberta-Augustana Vikings forward Jimmy Sheehan scores NAIT Ooks goalie Nathan Park during Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference men's hockey action in Camrose, on Friday. NAIT won 4-3. Josh Aldrich/Camrose Canadian
University of Alberta-Augustana Vikings men's hockey coach Blaine Gusdal can sum this past weekend up by three descriptors: good, bad and ugly.
The good, they scored nine goals in two games against the NAIT Ooks, the top team in the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference. The bad is they lost both of those games 4-3 on Friday in Camrose and 7-6 in double overtime in Edmonton on Saturday. The ugly was the stretches of games where they allowed the Ooks to run rampant and take control.
"There's still positives to be taken from it, but there's no moral victories in January," said Gusdal. "We have to play a full 60 (minutes) to be successful, no matter who we're playing."
When it comes to the good, it wasn't just that they racked up the goals against the school that has still allowed the fewest goals in the ACAC, they fire power was spread out through the lineup. Five different players scored for Augustana
The two games marked the Vikings' return from the Christmas break, and dropped them from a tie with the Red Deer College Kings for second place into a three-way tie for third place. Jimmy Sheehan, Evan Warmington and Mitch McMullin scored for UAA in Friday's loss, while Sheehan, McMullin, Joe Olson, Zaine Walker and Cody Fiala tallied on Saturday,
Considering it was their first action in five weeks, Gusdal was pleased to see his offence clicking early in the new year. He added , however, they scored when they worked hard for it by crashing the net, looking for rebounds and forcing turnovers.
"When you score 4.5 goals a game against the No. 1 team in the league, that's a real positive, that came from desperation," said Gusdal. "Our goals for were desperation goals for when we decided to work hard."
Their offence kept them in the two games but it was not enough to overcome their mental lapses.
The Ooks scored in bunches and it killed Augustana. On Friday, they scored with 52 seconds left in the second period and then again shorthanded 25 seconds into the third period and a third goal on the power play to go up 4-1 at 3:20 of the final frame. McMullin and Warmington cut the deficit late, but it was not enough to close the gap.
On Saturday, Augustana spotted the Ooks a three-goal lead before they finally scored in the second period. The Vikings managed to tie the game and then took a 5-4 lead 3:37 into the third period, but they handed it right back to NAIT with two goals and 9:08 and 12:33. McMullin tied it at 6-6 at 13:39, but in this case it was to send the game into overtime as opposed to locking down a victory.
"We finish well, we need to start better," said Gusdal. "We're dealing with guys that are 21-27 (years old), they need to understand when it's time to punch the clock and when work starts."
Curtis Skip made 41 saves in the loss on Friday while Harry Fredeman made 45 saves on 52 shots on Saturday, his first start since February of last year.
"When they continually see 45-plus shots a night, they're holding us in games," said Gusdal. "It's up to us to work a lot harder."
Despite the losses, the Vikings are still very much in control of their own destiny. With two games against RDC this weekend, they can be back in second place with a sweep over the Kings. If Red Deer wins it will all but take the Vikings out of contention for that all important first round bye in the playoffs.
"We know what we're capable of doing, the key for is going to be bringing our work ethic for 60 minutes and especially establishing that work ethic in the first 20 minutes," said Gusdal. "It can't be for the first 19:30 and take the last 30 seconds off at the end of the first period. We have to put in a solid 20 minutes to start on Friday night and then let everything build from there."
Augustana host the Kings on Friday in the Maxwell Arena at 7:30 p.m. and then play on Saturday in Penhold at 7 p.m.
• The Augustana basketball teams return to action this weekend as they host the Keyano College Huskies on Friday (women 6 p.m., men 8 p.m.) and Saturday (1 and 3 p.m.).
Despite an injury ravaged lineup, the Vikings are getting healthy again and have the opportunity to start the second semester off right against Keyano (6-6), but they have little room for error.
"This upcoming weekend against Keyano will be a definite litmus year for us," said Vikings head coach Dave Drabiuk. "Two wins and we are well on our way to a strong run to a playoff spot. Two losses may leave us short on season but long on moxie as we chase a playoff spot. We have put ourselves in a position where, effectively, every game this half will be “must win” games. … It’s not an easy way to view this half of the season but we have some great character leaders who are also incredible characters and we will give it our best shot."
• The Vikings volleyball teams are up in Fort McMurray to play two matches each against Keyano College. Both the men's (4-10; 21-35) and women's (5-9; 22-33) team are also in need of victories to keep their playoff goals within reach.