The Dragons have the firepower this year on offense, but so far the main challenge has been on the defensive end.
The Dragons hit the road last week for three in a row, away from home to play Brooks, Fort McMurray and St. Albert respectively. They came away with one win and two losses.
“Our challenge right now is to keep pucks out of the net,” said coach Rob Hegberg. “We’re scoring enough goals to win games, but we’re allowing more goals than we score.”
The Dragons first stop was in Brooks on Tuesday, September 16 to take on the Bandits. Team captain Trent Colberg opened the scoring in the first period as the Dragons peppered the goal with 17 shots to the Bandits 6. The second period saw no scoring, however just 31 seconds into the third period Robert Nocera found the net. The Bandits scored three minutes later on the powerplay. With a minute left, Justin Faryna scored to put the game out of reach, 3-1.
“We played some good defense,” said Hegberg.
The Dragons were in Fort McMurray on Friday, September 19 to take on one of the hottest teams in the league. The Oil Barons have started the season with a 6-1 record. The two teams traded goals to end the first period with a score of 2-2. Justin Morello and Erik Slemp each scored in the first. Slemp added his second of the game 10 minutes into the second period, however the Oil Barons put it out of reach in the third period with three more goals. Final score: 5-3.
“The problem right now is we are giving up a lot of goals that other teams don’t have to work for,” said Hegberg. “When I look back at the goals we scored, we had to work hard, but then we give up easy ones so we’re working against ourselves.”
The same pattern continued on Saturday, September 20 in St. Albert. The Dragons were spitting fire right out of the gate with Nocera’s short-handed goal five minutes in. He then assisted Jeff Young’s goal five minutes later to put the Dragons up 2-0, to end the first period. The Steel tied it after two, and in the third period the Dragons went up 3-2 with Nocera’s second of the game. St. Albert however put together three straight to win 5-3.
“It was a complete mental breakdown and defensive breakdown in the defensive zone, and our penalty killing not doing a good enough job to shut down the powerplay,” said Hegberg.
He says it is time for the players to focus in on defense and sticking to the game plan.
“They’ve got to make a decision. They either have to stick to the game plan and follow what we are trying to do defensively, or we’re going to have to make some changes. Something has got to happen, we’re giving up too many of these opportunities,” Hegberg said.
‘I’d feel worse if we weren’t scoring goals. From the red line to the offensive goal we are doing some great things…we just have to bear down on defence, and it is not just goaltending. Goaltending has to be better, our defensemen have to be better and our forwards have to be better, from the red line to the net.”
The Dragons were still on the road Tuesday, September 23 in Canmore (results not available as of press time), and are back at home this Thursday, September 25 to take on the Olds Grizzlys.