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Sunday, October 26, 2014

RHL Huskies edged by Mustangs in season opener

Huskies and Mustangs enjoy a mid-game chat
C. Davis photos and videos
Chris Davis

Fort Macleod's Mustangs came from behind to defeat Pincher Creek's Huskies 6-5 in the Ranchland Hockey League (RHL) season opener for both teams and the home opener for the Huskies, held at Pincher Creek's Memorial Community Centre Arena on Saturday evening, October 25.  In the other RHL season opener, held the same evening,  Nanton's Palominos defeated the Kainai Braves 10-3.  The Braves return to the RHL this season after a two-year absence.





At the Pincher rink the Huskies and Mustangs got off to a brisk start, with the Mustangs peppering the Pincher net repeatedly early on as the Huskies worked to find their groove.  Huskies goalie Joel Hasselman and Mustangs goalie Joel Pozzo both put in credible efforts, but Claringbull was definitely busier throughout the first half of the period.  The passing plays were there for the Huskies but the execution was inconsistent.  About a third of the way through the period something clicked for the Huskies, they shook off the dust, and that ultimately resulted in the first goal of the game at the 9:09 mark, scored by Huskies #17 Shawn Robertson.  Assists went to Kevin Olson and Mason Bond.  Olson drove the puck into the Mustangs end, backhanded it to Bond, Bond took a quick shot, Robertson at the net quickly snagged the rebound, and in it went.  With 5:58 remaining in the period Huskies left winger #12 Kieven Weasel Bear passed the puck to Hayden Shackel from the left wing in the Mustangs end, Shackel put it in place for Elliott's well timed slapshot, and now it was 2-0 Huskies.  Shackel picked up an assist on the play. All seemed sunny for the Huskies as the period wound down, but with only 28.5 remaining in the period Mustangs #20 Cole Matson took a pass from #10 Kevin Boldue and popped it into the Huskies net, making it 2-1 at the buzzer.  Two penalties apiece in this period.


Something went terribly wrong for the Huskies in the second period.  They came out "sluggish and flatfooted", as Kevin Olson verified after the game.  At the 14:57 mark Cole Matson backhanded the puck into the Huskies net off an end zone faceoff to tie the score 2-2.  The second goal of the game for Matson, and an assist to Tyce Gallamore. At the 13:27 mark Mustangs #2 Justin Donahue scored, making it 3-2 Mustangs, assisted by Greg Schimanski and Tyce Gallamore. Long story short, the Mustangs went on to score three more times in the period, with the Huskies only answering once. The lone Huskies goal in the period was scored by #6 Ian Hagen, the result of many solid efforts in both periods from him, assisted by Hayden Shackel and Alex Elliott.  That forward line rushed it into the Mustangs end, Shackel backhanded it to Hagen arriving at the net, and Hagen fluidly popped it in through a small gap between Mustangs goalie Joel Pozzo's legs, and at that point it was 3-3.  The Mustangs put Tyler Marcoote in net shortly after that, and scored twice more to make it  5-3 at the end of the period.    Scoring for the Mustangs were Brady Matson, and Cole Matson (a hat trick for him). Gallamore and Schimanski picked up another assist apiece, and another went to Kent Broere.  The Huskies served 10 minutes of penalties during this period, a feisty one, compared to 16 minutes for the Mustangs, which included a 10 minute game misconduct for Mustangs #10 Kevin Boldue.


Down but definitely not out, the Huskies put in one of the strongest periods we've seen from them against the Mustangs since the reboot.   In the first minute of play at 19:09 mark Kevin Olson scored for the Huskies, from a pass by Shawn Robertson.  With 5:39 remaining in the game Mustangs #11 Greg Schimanski scored, assisted by Cole Matson.  That put the score at 6-4 for the Mustangs.  The unrelenting pace continued, the Huskies amped up their game, and it paid off with a dramatically timed goal by Alex Elliot with only 31.4 seconds remaining on the clock, Elliot delivering on a pass from Kevin Olson.  That half a minute wasn't long enough for the Huskies to tie it up, I lost a bet, and the Mustangs went home the winners at 6-5.  A little dustup occurred in front of the benches as the final buzzer rang, words and phone numbers were exchanged, and the refs decided to kibosh the handshake.


Bottom line for the hometown fans:  The Huskies successfully delivered notice that they are no longer a "Building year" team.  They hit the ice looking like they did at the end of last season, confident and persistent, with good offensive and defensive lines, solid goaltending, and canny coaching.  It looks like we're in for a very competitive and entertaining season.

After the game Huskies #9 Kevin Olson took some time to talk about the team and the game.  According to Olson "there's a good core" of players from last season's team, "but at the same time we've got some new blood".

"It's promising."

"We lost the game because we blew the second period, and that's just mental lapse... not playing together and it's early in the season.  I understand it's their first game too (the Mustangs) but they've got their whole team back from last year, so.. they click a little bit better.  When you add some key pieces this year for us it's just a learning experience now, just getting everyone on the same page."

"I'm 36 this year," Olson said.  "I enjoy it, that's why I'm here.  I've been here (Pincher Creek) since 2003. Olson previously played for Fort Macleod for about 10 years and joined the Huskies as soon as the team rebooted.

According to Olson it's tough to arrange practice time for the whole team.  "We've got guys out of Lethbridge, we've got guys out of the Pass, and everyone's working, everyone's work schedule conflicts with everyone else's... if it's weekend warrior hockey, that's what it is, but I like this group of guys and I think we're going to be really competitive this year, and who knows where it will go."

Olson agreed with the premise that this season's Huskies are picking up where last season's left off.  "We actually did kind of fire it up at the end of the season last year, and this is just a good start of things to come I hope."

It's likely the biggest challenge for any other team in the RHL will again be Nanton's Palominos.  The Huskies are scheduled to travel to the Nanton rink on October 31 for their first crack at that oyster.  They'll be back on home ice the next day, November 1, to face Kainai, a team that left the league the same season as the Huskies joined it. However, looking at the rosters a lot of these guys have played each other many times before.



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