Cold Lake Wings defenceman Tylin Cameron rushes past the Meadow Lake bench during Friday night action at Imperial Oil Place.
It’s a work in progress.
Starting a franchise from scratch and still adding players to the roster days before their home opener has its challenges, as hockey fans saw when they got their first taste of the new Cold Lake Wings franchise Friday night.
The excitement was there. But past the hype and a “gutsy win” in Hinton the weekend prior, the team chemistry for the Wings, and the Meadow Lake Mustangs for that matter, is understandably going to take time.
The Mustangs came back to beat the Wings 4-3, thanks to a late third period marker.
“It was very disappointing,” said Jonathan Aitken. “We focus on the last five minutes of every period and we make sure we’re keeping the puck in front of us.
“It goes back to our pre-game skate this morning. The guys weren’t ready, their passes were off, mentally they weren’t sharp and they were fighting the puck the whole game,” he said.
“When you put forth an effort that’s not 100 per cent for sixty minutes, I have issues with that. We have to hold each other accountable, myself included, and make sure we know what we’re doing heading into each game.”
The Wings took their opportunity the next night in the rubber-match and pasted the Mustangs 10-1 in their own barn.
Illias Okemow’s powerplay goal on the deflection put the Wings up 3-2 midway through the second period, but the chances dried up from there, and Meadow Lake hung around and capitalized on some of Blue Hildebrand’s rebounds.
“That was a great shot by Pavel [Simak] on the point and somehow I got the tip and it went in, so I think that was pretty big for us,” said Okemow.
Meadow Lake has suffered some big losses so far this season. Besides getting double-digits scored on them Saturday by the Wings, they lost to the Edson Aeros 28-1 thanks to a goaltending emergency. That may have bled into the Wings lack of urgency.
“I’m sure players look at scores and obviously you’re going to hear about it. Those guys have pride – any hockey player when you lose a game, any type of game if it’s 28-1 or 4-3,” said Aitken.
The Cold Lake Wings are now 2-2 in the young season and will host the Hinton Wildcats Friday night at Imperial Oil Place.