By Stephen Dafoe
Morinville – It was a solemn mood in the Jets’ dressing room after Sunday afternoon’s 3-2 defeat at the hands of the Strathcona Bruins. The Jets have lost their last four contests – their last victory was on Oct. 1 when the club pulled away from a 5-0 deficit to defeat the St. Albert Merchants 6-5.
But the magic of that road game has not been repeated over the past two and a half weeks, leaving Jets fans wondering when the team will begin to pull it together this season.
Assistant Coach Alan Fraser is convinced the problem is not talent.
“We have slow starts,” Fraser said of the club’s recent losing streak. “That’s psychological. That’s not talent-wise. This team, arguably, in my three year tenure has been the most talented – the talent that’s out there.”
Despite the talent, the Jets continued to carry the plague of defensive breakdowns that cost them Friday night’s game against the Edmonton Royals. The Bruins’ first goal was a shorthanded goal scored with 2:54 left in the first frame. Although the Jets had seven-and-a-half minutes of powerplay advantage in the first period, they failed to ripple Strathcona’s mesh.
The struggle continued in the second frame with the Jets bringing the game to a 2-2 tie by the end of the period.
However, the Jets road to ruin came with 6:43 left in the final period. Justin Proulx took a two minute penalty for elbowing in Strathcona’s zone during a powerplay advantage for the Jets. Two minutes later, the Bruins, now on a powerplay of their own, pocketed their third.
Although Strathcona picked up two penalties of their own, giving the Jets a five-on-three advantage, and finally a six-on-three advantage when Fraser pulled the goalie for the final 30 seconds of the game, the Jets failed to drive the contest into overtime.
The assistant coach said he doesn’t want to ruin something that is close to clicking, but he cannot help but wonder if the players are coming to the rink ready.
“A lot of my time when I get to talk to these guys is getting them ready,” Fraser said. “They’re not coming ready to play. It’s hard to coach something when they’re not coming ready.”
The assistant coach thinks it is a matter of not putting the skills developed in practice into play on the ice.
“The things we work on in practice; the systems that we try to employ in the game; there’s no shortage of hard work in practice,” Fraser said. “I’m not the kind of guy that’s going to call out certain players. We need our best players to be our best players. Maybe we need our not-so-best players, who think they’re not as good of a player as they are, to step up and be one of those best players.”
But looking for a silver lining in the dark cloud that has hung over the team’s head the past four games, Fraser isn’t without his praise, too.
“We did lose 3-2 – we didn’t lose 7-2,” Fraser said. “It’s just the bitter taste of four and oh. I don’t remember the last time we were four and oh. It’s a long time ago.”
Fraser said the Jets did show better discipline in Sunday’s game, something the club has been working on in an attempt to reduce the hit parade to the penalty box. The Jets racked up a total of 13 minutes in penalties and two game misconducts during Sunday’s game, a marked decrease from their penalty average this season.
The Jets play three games this week. The club travels to Edmonton Oct. 20 to take on the North Edmonton Red Wings, travel to Spruce Grove Oct. 22 to face off against the Regals and return to home ice Oct. 24 to square off against the Beverly Warriors. Game time for next Sunday’s home ice contest is 2 p.m. at the Ray McDonald Sports Centre.