This past Sunday, the Lacombe Bantam A Rockets were crushed in a 7-2 loss against the Bashaw Stars in their final regular season game.
It was quite different from the last time Lacombe played Bashaw, where they narrowly lost the game 2-3 on Jan. 23. Coach Wesley Cross said the difference was consistency.
“They (Bashaw) are a good team and they bring it every shift,” said Cross. He added that his own players did not make their strongest effort in the first half of the game.
Because the Stars are higher in the standings than the Rockets, Cross said it is all the more important for Lacombe to keep the score tight when playing them.
While Lacombe failed to do that in this game, Cross said his team still showed promise. “I don’t think we played horribly,” said Cross. “We smartened up in the last two periods and held them back.”
Things got bad for Lacombe really fast.
Bashaw opened up scoring for the game in the first five minutes and scored a second time before Derek Lofstrand could answer with Lacombe’s first goal of the game within the first 10 minutes. Bashaw responded with another three unanswered goals before the buzzer sounded, ending the first period with a score of 5-1.
The second period began much the same way. Lacombe was slow to move and get to the puck and spent the first half of the period struggling to get the puck out of their own end.
Suddenly, halfway through the period, things changed.
“They woke up,” said Cross, adding he isn’t entirely sure what made the team start playing a better game of hockey.
After the Stars scored their sixth goal of the game, the Rockets started moving faster, got tougher on the puck and play moved into Bashaw’s end more frequently.
In the third period, the Rockets were playing a much more aggressive and competitive style of hockey. However, the Stars had also stepped up their game to match.
Hitting was more prevalent in the third period as well, with both teams eager to throw the body and players giving as good as they got. Cross said this physical style of play is important when facing Bashaw.
“Bashaw will always hit you,” said Cross. “So you have to be willing to throw bodychecks and finish your checks off.”
During a power play halfway through the period, Caden Cross seized the opportunity to score the Rockets’ second goal of the game. However, it was quickly answered by the Stars to keep their six-point lead.
While the Rockets never gave up and played harder as the game wore on, the score gap established by the Stars in the first was too large for them to overcome.
Lacombe lost the game 7-2.
It wasn’t Lacombe’s only loss over the weekend either, having lost to the Battle River Outlaws 6-2 the night before. Cross said the weekend was not the most inspiring league finish, but is still hopeful that the Rockets can turn things around in playoffs. Consistency, something that has plagued the Rockets all season, will be key.
Cross said the team has the ability, now they just need to use it on the ice.
Cross added that Lacombe’s lack of consistency has almost made him feel as if he has been coaching two teams this season, one that shows up to play hard and the other, less so.
Lacombe now heads into playoffs. Their first matchup will be against Stettler and will be decided in a two-game total point series.