After a strong start, the Drumheller Dragons have faced adversity, but for a developing team, coaches are confident they haven’t played their best hockey yet.
The Dragons ended the week and the natural first half of the season before the Christmas break with a win and two losses.
On Friday, December 15, the Dragons hosted the Sherwood Park Crusaders and Jordan Taupert opened the scoring just 23 seconds in. Goals followed from Joren Patenaude and Brayden Nicholetts, and the Dragons were up 3-0 after the first period. The Crusaders scored one to end the second period 3-1, Dragons.
In the third period, three quick powerplay goals starting at the midpoint sealed the Dragons’ fate. After an empty net goal with 16 seconds left the Crusaders went on to a 5-3 win.
On Saturday, December 16, the Dragons had a chance to redeem themselves versus the Grande Prairie Storm. The Dragons went up 2-0 in the first with goals from Nate Keeley and Troy Dudley.
In the second, Kaden Hanas scored his fifth and sixth goal as a Dragon to put them up 4-0. Two quick goals put the Storm back in the game. Derek Buds scored shorthanded, but Grande Prairie came back on the powerplay to end the period 5-3 Dragons.
In the third period, the Storm and the Dragons traded goals, as Alex Rotundo and Markus Boguslavsky kept it out of reach. Dragons win 7-5.
On Tuesday, December 19, the Dragons were in Canmore, and the Eagles jumped ahead by two goals before Tyler Kreklewich scored in the first, ending the period down 2-1. The Eagles opened the second with two more quick short-handed goals before Brett Edwards and Nicholetts scored. The Eagles kept the separation, however, ending the second 5-3.
The Dragons pulled to within striking distance with a goal from Andrew Kartusch, but the Eagles sealed it with another goal, maintaining the final 6-4.
Despite this, the Dragons remain in the third spot in the AJHL Viterra South.
“I think we have a great group, but I don’t think we have played our best hockey consistently, so I think there is a lot of room for improvement in our game,” said head coach Kevin Hasselberg.” I am fairly confident our players will get there, but it has been a challenge to get there and stay there consistently.”
“I think a lot of our challenges are mental. When we go on the ice in practice with our team they work hard, and they are very good at what they do. It is just applying those same concepts when there is a little more pressure involved on the ice,” he said.
Hasselberg is hopeful the team will show continual improvement.
“We had a great start to the year and those points gave us a bit of a cushion to get us through the challenge we are going through now, and we have some work to do now. We are going to stay the course, we’ll keep working on those challenges and at the end of the day when February or March rolls around, that is when you want to be playing your best.”