The SAIT Trojans men’s hockey team knew first place was on the line Jan. 31-Feb. 1 in a two-game series against its provincial rivals, the NAIT Ooks.
But the team’s performance said otherwise.
NAIT swept both games, hammering the Trojans 16-4 in the home-and-home set.
“We didn’t get beat by a better team. We got beat by a team that wanted it more,” Trojans’ head coach Dan Olsen said, after the dust had settled.
The lost weekend put an end to the Trojans’ eight-game winning streak, and allowed NAIT to move past them, into first place in the ACAC regular season standings.
SAIT is now tied in points with NAIT but the Ooks have two games in hand and are therefore ranked first.
The series began on a painful note for the Trojans Friday night as NAIT embarrassed them 10-1 on in Edmonton.
SAIT managed to score its first and only goal within 10 minutes into the game. The Ooks then scored 10 unanswered goals. It was the Trojans first regulation loss on the road this season.
The Trojans were heavily out-shot in the series opener, 45-25.
“There’s no way they should have scored 10 goals on us if we would have showed up to play,” said Olsen.
“When you show up at the opponents’ rink and there are only five guys ready to go, you know you’re going to be in trouble.”
SAIT goalie, Austin Smith, was pulled late in the second period after allowing seven goals on 30 shots. Kootenay Alder allowed three goals on 15 shots in relief of Smith. It was Alder’s first regular season action.
The Trojans came out firing in game two, Saturday night in Calgary. They outshot NAIT 15-8 in the first period and were rewarded for their efforts with a late power play marker.
However, with just six seconds left in the first, NAIT’s Jordan Wood snuck one past Smith’s left pad to knot the game up at one.
This would prove to be the game’s proverbial ‘TSN turning point’ as NAIT scored three unanswered goals in the second and added two more in the third, to take the contest 6-3, and sweep the two-game series.
Smith has been solid for the Trojans this season but failed to find his rhythm in this pivotal series, allowing 13 goals in five periods of action.
“Smitty’s the big reason we’ve had success, but this weekend he was a little bit off,” said Olsen.
“He would maybe like to have a couple of the goals back but we can’t really fault our goaltending. It was just a matter of defensive zone breakdowns and some really bad back checking.”
Olsen also noted his team’s lack of desire.
“That’s a team that was hungrier than we were this weekend and I told the boys I thought with first place on the line, we would have showed up with a lot more passion and emotion,” said Olsen.
We didn’t get beat by a better team. We got beat by a team that wanted it more. – Dan Olsen
“It’s definitely disappointing,” said Trojans’ Captain Nolan Souchette.
“When you have a big weekend and that’s the result you get, obviously it’s a little bit demoralizing. You’ve got to take in stride and learn from it.
“We’ve been having lapses in our game and second periods seem to be our dagger,” said Souchette.
“I don’t know what it is but we’re just going to have to figure it out down the stretch as we move forward here towards the playoffs.”
The SAIT Trojans schedule can be found at the Trojans website.