They might have a long road ahead of them, but it's been so far, so good for the Moose Jaw Generals since returning from the Christmas break.
Even a 3-2 loss to the Regina Pat Canadians in Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League action Sunday at Mosaic Place showed signs of their sudden turn of fortune. Combined with the fact Moose Jaw won their first two games after the break – 5-2 over the Prince Albert Mintos and 5-2 over the Beardy's Blackhawks – and one can see why there's a sudden case of optimism in the Generals ranks.
“The kids have for the most part been staying positive and I think that's part of it,” said Generals coach Ray Wareham. “They came back after the break there and were all smiles, then we had a really good weekend and a really week of practice and we were coming in hoping to carry this over.”
And for 40 minutes against Regina, that's what the local squad did. The third-place Pat Canadians took a 1-0 lead out of the first period, but Evan Sare got that one back for Moose Jaw with a power play goal with 2:29 remaining in the second.
Then came the third period, with the shot clock saying it all: 22-1 Regina, with the Pat C's Cole Sillinger scoring the eventual game-winner 57 seconds into the period.
“For 40 minutes we did we had to to compete against these guys, then in the third period we got away from the gameplan, became individuals and took some stupid penalties,” Wareham said. “Then you stand around watching them and they're too good of a team to do that.”
Two of the penalties were especially egregious in that both came seconds after the Generals had gone on the power play. What made the collapse so frustrating was how well they'd played to that point.
“For the first two periods we kept them in check, the shots were something like 18-12 (Regina),” Wareham said. “We'd like to get more shots on net, but we knew if we blocked up the middle and stuff like that it would give us a chance. So we did that and did a great job of it through 40, but in the third period I'm sure what happened but it was a completely different game.”
Jaxson Taupert made 37 saves in the loss.
In the Generals' first game back from the break against Prince Albert, the two teams were tied 1-1 through two periods with Owen Slugoski scoring the lone Moose Jaw goal. The floodgates opened in the third, though, as Cody Davis, Steven Kesslering and Jeron Kletzel all scored in the span of 1:55 early in the period to give the Generals control of the game.
Kesslering added an insurance marker midway through the frame. Taupert turned aside 19 shots for the win.
One day later at Beardy's, Sare and Davis gave the Generals a 2-1 lead out of the first period and Kesslering added a goal in the second for a 3-2 Moose Jaw edge. David and Casey McDonald each scored once in he third as Moose Jaw went on to the 5-2 win.
The Generals now hold a 10-18-2-1 record, good enough for ninth place in the 12-team league, eight points back of the Saskatoon Contacts for the final playoff spot.
Moose Jaw returns to action Thursday, Jan. 17 when they host the Swift Current Legionnaires (7 p.m., Mosaic Place).