Kyle O’Kane (above) is relied upon as one of the top scorers for the Chill – Photo/Mick Lite
The Arizona Sundogs, who came into the weekend as the last place team in the Central Hockey League, pulled out two wins this weekend, who many will say, they didn’t exactly earn. They had a goaltender who played at the top of his game, and a lot of luck in the weekend sweep of the St. Charles Chill.
Despite the losses for the Chill, there are a lot of positives to take from this weekend. The effort put forth on the ice was outstanding. The Chill outplayed the Sundogs in both games. Outworking them on the boards, in all three zones of the ice, and especially in the shot department. However, the Chill still have one, major flaw. The powerplay.
“We’re not shooting.” Chill forward Kyle O’Kane said after Saturday’s loss. “We’re making too many passes. We’re trying to make five or six passes when it needs to be two passes and shoot. Teams watch video and they can see we are struggling on the powerplay. We’re making way to many passes and they jump on us quick.
Defensemen Tony DeHart had a very similar view as O’Kane did, “We need to start from scratch. Start throwing pucks on net and just crash hard. We’re a gritty team and we need to get to those dirty areas, and eventually it’s going to click.
Twice in last nights game, the Chill battled back to tie the game after going down 1-0 and then 2-1. Phil Bushbacher, who’s forced his way on the team after making it to training camp during the free agent try-outs, scored again, and Kyle O’Kane also netted one for the Chill.
Andrew Engelage, Arizona’s goalie was superb during the two game stretch and was the primary reason his team walked away with the victories.
Jamie Rivers was very pleased with his teams effort this weekend and especially last night, but he wasn’t happy with how the game was called. During a second period powerplay for the Sundogs, there was a blatant, too many men on the ice for Arizona and you could see Rivers screaming on the bench at the official. “They had six guys on the ice, the official pulls the whistle right to his mouth and then doesn’t call it, and they turn around and score. That’s frustrating to me. If you’re making the motion to call the penalty, call it. Don’t back down at the last second. On that play there, our guys were stuck in our end for the full two minutes. The guys were blocking shots and playing like warriors, then there are too many men on the ice. That’s an easy call.”
Rivers also touched on the powerplay issue. “I’ve been through it as a player. When you’re struggling, you complicate things. You’re afraid of getting your shot blocked so you, essentially, pass the trash. I thought we did a better job tonight on getting pucks through. We’re still not getting as many to the net as we want but we’re starting to establish the shot. We’re going to work on it more this week in practice, and trust me, no one is more frustrated than the players in that locker room.”
Rivers was most excited about the effort that the team has put forth the last two games. “The biggest thing I’ve learned this weekend, is that these players care. We blocked more shots and laid out more hits this weekend, than we have all season long.” If you watched the Chill from the start of the season, you can see that the progression is clearly there. The effort is there and they are working harder than they have all season long. That is only going to help them moving forward this season.
The Chill are certainly frustrated, but if you keep your heads down, they are just going to stay down. The team knows they need to keep pushing forward and continue to make strides past this weekend. They next play Brampton on Wednesday, and with the debut of Steven Anthony, they’ll have a little more offense and they can hopefully start building on a winning streak rather than continuing on their losing streak.