The St. Paul Canadiens’ ride the momentum of a three game win streak into a two-game weekend, with the Wainwright Bison and Vegreville Rangers visiting the Clancy Richard Arena Friday and Saturday, respectively.
Head Coach for the Canadiens, Joe Young, says the team has been playing some exciting hockey, “we’ve had to gut it out the last few games, we’ve been short with injuries, but the guys are sticking together.” This is a testament to the relationships off-ice, explains Young, “it really shows how deep we are as a hockey team.”
The Canadiens are third in the Northeast Alberta Jr B Hockey League (NEAJBHL), with five wins and only one loss, to rivals The Cold Lake Ice, on October 9th. “We could easily be undefeated, but that’s just the way it goes,” says Young referring to the fact that the Canadiens took the Ice in their home opener on October 2nd.
“We’ve had good goal-tending,” Young explains the injuries have got to the team, but with stellar net-minding and positive relationships the team has managed to pull out the Ws, “we’re making things happen.”
The Canadiens played a Wednesday nighter this week, beating the Onion Lake Border Chiefs 5-2. The mid-week games can be tier a squad out, especially considering all the guys either have day jobs or attend school. Young was prepared, “we cancelled one of our practices this week just to give the guys a break. Still, we’re gonna have a tough week.” With two games last weekend, one mid-week and two this upcoming weekend, the Canadiens are looking at a five game week. If not prepared and rested that could take out any team.
“We have Wainwright tonight, they haven’t lost a game all year and Vegreville Saturday. We definitely want to stay fresh,” Young expects the injured players will be back in the line-up for the weekend, “from what I hear, we’re getting healthier. Looks like we’re gonna have everybody back for this weekend, so it’ll be a good test for us.”
The competitiveness in the league is unlike any years previous, says Young, “it’s outstanding that on any given night, any team can beat another team. I think that’s the way it should be; it makes it more competitive and it makes it more exciting for the fans.”
As a team, Young explains even being on the winning side of blowout games can cause teams to lose their edge, “you get into bad habits. Whereas, this year, you gotta be on top of your game every night or you’re gonna get beat. The players have to have full concentration and buy into what we’re doing.”
The Canadiens have really turned themselves around under Young’s leadership, going from a bottom of the league team from three years ago, to a top three squad. “With the success that we’ve had and being able to compete on any given night, has really brought the fans out and it’s exciting hockey to watch.”
“Definitely, three years ago was pretty trying when we [administration] started. But it was something that we talked about, we wanted to get it to this point, where the community was excited to come out and watch.” Young says there’s been a complete turn-around from the fans, “it’s nice to be able to go uptown and talk hockey, and everybody’s bought in to what we’ve wanted to do. The turn-around from three years ago, with just two wins, to now we’re competing in the top three. It’s amazing. It’s a credit to everybody, and especially the players who have committed their time to do this.”
St. Paul Canadiens are home Friday and Saturday at the Clancy Richard. Friday’s game versus Wainwright gets underway at 8:00 pm and Saturday versus Vegreville has a 7:30 pm puck drop.