In their first-round postseason matchup with the Fort McMurray Barons, the NE BC and Yukon Trackers are the likely favourites to advance; but as they’ve proven this season, against the Trackers, the Barons are no easy target.
“Ft. McMurray, we can’t take them lightly,” stated Trackers head coach Brennen Giroux, whose team begins their best-of-three series on Friday in Dawson Creek.
“We can’t take anyone lightly and we have to come prepared to play every game.”
The Trackers enter the Northern Alberta Midget Hockey League quarter-finals as the third seed out of the North-Black Division with a 14-17-1 record, giving them home-ice advantage to start the playoffs.
As for the Barons, they had just five regular-season wins and finished in last place, 16 points back of the Trackers; however, one of those W’s came against the Trackers in the first meeting between the two clubs this season.
And as Giroux points out, no team is safe in a best-of-three series.
“They are a team that has beat us and we just have to be prepared as if we are playing a top-ranked team,” he said. “We can’t take anyone lightly and we have to come prepared to play every single game.
“If we come to the rink thinking it’s an easy win we could be done,” added Giroux.
Since their 5-4 loss on Nov. 2 to the Barons, the Trackers have dominated the northeast Alberta squad, winning four straight and outscoring them 22-7.
“We just need to play our game that we know we can play. We have played top-notch teams from Tier 1 and competed. We just have to play ‘that’ game,” said Giroux.
The Trackers, however, haven’t played their best game lately, ending the season with a 2-5-1 record in their last eight; but a 4-3 season finale win over the Camrose Vikings have the Trackers starting the postseason on the right foot.
Giroux said the Trackers’ blueline is clicking at the moment, while goaltenders Logan Edwards and Michael Chute appear up to task between the pipes.
Edwards made 29 saves in a 3-2 loss to the Vikings on Friday, Feb. 15, while Chute got the win on Saturday making 31 saves.
Giroux noted that with the defence where it’s at, he would like to see the Trackers’ offence create more opportunities in the Barons’ zone.
“We are going to be working on cycling the puck better, really attacking their team rather than sitting back,” said Giroux. “We want to prevent them from setting up in our zone and prevent them from using their forecheck.”
The Trackers have the luxury of playing all three series games, if needed, on their home rinks. Game 1 begins at 8:00 p.m. at either Kin Arena or Memorial; Game 2 is set for 3:00 p.m. in Fort St. John on Saturday; and if necessary, the series will return to Dawson Creek for Game 3 on Sunday at noon.
If they get by the Barons, the Trackers will meet with the second-seeded Grande Prairie Storm in the division semifinals. Both Peace River and the Storm clinched first round byes after finishing one-two respectively in the North-Black Division.