Wildcats spinning their wheels in the playoff stretch run

Steven Mah
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Brooklyn Haubrich

The Swift Current Diamond Energy Wildcats’ hopes of climbing the Saskatchewan Female Midget AAA Hockey League standings took a hit over the weekend as they struggled against two teams below them in the standings. The Wildcats picked up one regulation win but suffered two shootout losses during a busy weekend.

Friday, the Wildcats dropped a 2-1 shootout loss to the host Notre Dame Hounds.

The Wildcats failed to score on all three of their shootout attempts, while Katelyn Breitkreuz scored for the Hounds to earn the extra point.

The Wildcats led 1-0 after one period on a powerplay goal from Brenna Thomson with an assist from Jessica Pele. Swift Current finished one-for-11 on the powerplay and allowed the tying goal late in the middle stanza when Robin Nimegeers scored shorthanded.

Jasey Book suffered the shootout loss with 20 saves, while Kylee Styles picked up the win with 31 saves before stopping Karlie Bell, Pele, and Brooklyn Haubrich in the shootout.

Saturday, the Wildcats got things turned around with a 2-1 win over the visiting Melville Prairie Fire. Bell and Merissa Zerr both scored in the win with assists from Haubrich and Danya Winzer. Brooklyn Weisgerber picked up the win with 16 saves on 17 shots as the Wildcats outshot the visitors 30-17.

Sunday, the Wildcats were not at their best in a costly 2-1 shootout win. Chloe Smith scored the only goal for Swift Current in regulation to tie the contest 1-1 midway through the second period with assists from Keely Chalk and Pele. Book made 22 saves in regulation and overtime and stopped the first three Melville attempts in the shootout before Brittany Keisig scored to end the game.

All four Wildcats failed to score in the shootout as they dropped to 4-3 in the skills competition after opening the season with four straight wins. The Wildcats have now scored on six of 40 attempts and allowed five goals on 39 shootout attempts.

“Today they just out-muscled us,” said head coach Terry Pavely. “They won a lot of battles for pucks. We just didn’t have opportunities. We have to be stronger on pucks. When other teams raise their compete level then we have to raise ours. I don’t think at times we did today.”

Pavely refused to use the easy excuse of fatigue after the team’s third game in as many days.

“I wouldn’t blame it on that, we just keep losing to bad hockey teams. We are the only team that loses to Melville and Batteford over and over. We keep making steps forward to give ourselves hope of moving forward and then when we play the bottom two teams they get points off us. You can say what you want, yeah three games in three days, but you have to beat the teams below you and we just are not doing it.”

The Wildcats sit fourth in the eight-team SFMAAAHL with a 9-9-4-3 record, although all four teams below them hold games in hand. Their inability to secure points against teams below them in the standings has left them vulnerable and Pavely was unsure why his team has struggled against Battlefords and Melville.

“I don’t know, I wish I knew the answer. We keep saying that every time we take two steps forward we take one back. When we get opportunities we have got to make the most of them. We score four goals in three games and you are not going to win. Every game we have had more powerplay chances and we are not scoring on the powerplay. We just have to buckle down.”

The Wildcats seemed poised for a big second half in the SFMAAAHL after a strong showing at the Mac’s Midget AAA World Invitational Tournament in Calgary over the holiday break where they finished with a 3-1 record and scored 15 goals in four games. They played five league games in January against three teams below them in the standings and earned only nine of a possible 15 points.

“We scored a lot of goals at the Mac’s and we thought it was going to be a springboard and it really hasn’t helped us,” lamented Pavely. “It is a little bit frustrating right now because we have been playing teams, Notre Dame, who is a decent team right with us in the pack, we played Melville and Battleford since then and we are not getting the points. The teams above us are getting the points against those teams and that is why we are going to end up in fifth or sixth place because we have just given too many points away against the bottom teams.”

The Wildcats now have only three regular season games remaining and will have their hands full when they host the league leading Regina Rebels this weekend.

The two teams will meet Saturday at 5:15 p.m. and Sunday at 1 p.m. at Fairview West Arena.  The Wildcats lost 3-0 and 2-1 on the road to Regina way back in October. The Rebels are running away with top spot in the league with a 20-2-0-1 record and feature the top four scorers in the league, led by Chelsea Perepeluk’s 48 points in 23 games. Goaltender Summer Roberts also leads the league with a 1.32 goals against average.

“We are going to have to obviously find a way to score goals because they score goals. They are the only team in the league that averages more than three goals a game. We are not going to hold them to one, so we are going to have to find a way to get pucks past their goaltender and score some goals,” said Pavely.

The Wildcats will conclude the regular season on Wednesday when the Hounds visit Fairview West Arena at 8 p.m.

Organizations: Saskatchewan Female Midget AAA Hockey League, Swift Current Wildcats, Melville Prairie Fire Regina Rebels SFMAAAHL

Geographic location: Swift Current, Notre Dame, Calgary

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