It was a weekend road trip the Northeast BC and Yukon Trackers would soon like to forget.
The Midget ‘AA’ regional team went winless in three games during their recent road stint, losing handily to the PAC Spruce Grove Saints and St. Albert Crusaders before drawing even with the Slave Lake Thunder.
On Friday, the Saints, who lead all Northern Alberta Midget Hockey League (NAMHL) teams with a 21-6-1 record crushed the Trackers 7-1.
Saturday, things were no better.
The Trackers were held scoreless against the Crusaders in a 7-0 loss; and looking to bounce back on Sunday against the Thunder, the Trackers appeared down and out but a late third-period comeback assured at least one point.
“Those teams really attacked the weaknesses in our system,” said Trackers head coach Brennen Giroux while trying to sum up the weekend.
He said both the Saints and Crusaders took advantage of the Trackers missed assignments on defence and being caught out of position that led to fastbreak opportunities.
“We gave up a lot of 3-on-2’s, 2-on-1’s … guys are just not getting the system quite yet.”
He said the effort was there every game, but trouble burying the puck in the first two games was the difference.
“In terms of our play, I thought the games were really well played. We did have some bad periods, but overall we just couldn’t put the puck in the net.”
On Sunday, against Slave Lake, the Trackers trailed 5-2 before Brysan Eklund and the Trackers’ third line took matters into their own hands.
Eklund’s hat-trick and a goal by Trevor Whynot in the third helped the Trackers finish the weekend on a somewhat positive note.
“We were really happy with how our third line guys and bottom end defenceman [played]. They have been playing well for us right now at this time of the year,” said Giroux.
“Especially Eklund who had a four-goal game for us in Slave Lake and was one of the main reasons we came out of their with a really important point with the tie.”
Eklund’s first goal gave the Trackers an early lead that they carried with them into the first intermission, up 2-1.
But the Thunder rolled all over the Trackers in the second, scoring four unanswered including two powerplay markers.
Eklund went to work in the third scoring his second of the game while on the man-advantage to make it 5-3.
Another Thunder goal, scored by forward Sidney Gladue, revived Slave Lake’s three-goal cushion midway through the final frame.
But soon after, Whynot’s unassisted effort at 7:12 gave the Trackers life before Eklund notched two more to complete the natural hat-trick and draw things even at 6-6.
“It was a good effort by the boys in terms of getting back into the game and tying it up. Finally the hockey gods were on our side and the puck started going in,” said Giroux.
The Trackers are in Lethbridge, Alta. this weekend for a tournament before resuming league play with road matchups against their North Black Division rivals, the Grande Prairie Storm and Peace River Royals.
The Trackers end their season at home with back-to-back games versus the Camrose Vikings on Feb. 15 and 16.