Pictou County with lone game this week after busy opening schedule
NEW GLASGOW – After tonight’s matchup against the Summerside Western Capitals the Weeks Crushers will have played everyone in regular season action, besides the Valley Wildcats.
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Mitchell Deruelle prepares to take a faceoff during a Weeks Crushers home game this season.
Having had the opportunity to see where his club stands throughout the league, head coach Jason Malone said he is happy with what he is seeing from his players. He knows the season is still early and there is still work to be done, but the signs have been positive thus far.
“I think the main thing for us is realizing that we set the pace and when we’re playing well we’re the ones setting the tempo and teams are having to play with us,” he said. “That’s something our guys are in the midst of figuring out, so when we’re at the top of our game we feel confident and that’s probably the same with the majority of the teams around the league. So far to date we’re happy with our progression and our goals against was down last weekend and our special teams is up over 100 per cent right now, which is also good.
“We’re on the right track, but there’s always work to be done.”
This year Malone has a deeper roster to work with and he’s been doing just that. All four lines have been effective for their team in offensive or shut down roles. As of Wednesday John Mullally was fourth in the league in the goals and points categories, with nine goals and 17 points, while David Stephens was fourth in assists with 12.
Although they are amongst the league’s best up front it took some time to realize they were.
“I think that was something our guys had a tough time realizing when we were going through that tough streak of three games,” said Malone. “When we put a line on the ice we feel they should be the best line on the ice regardless of who they’re up against. I think it took our guys a little bit of time to realize that and now that they have I think there’s a little bit of confidence that goes hand-in-hand with that realization.”
On the blue line he’s happy with what he has seen so far, but with more youth in those positions he said they still need to do some work. He admitted it wasn’t just their defence core being young, but their defensive zone systems that needs some improvement.
“Honestly we worked a lot on our passing (this week in practice),” said Malone. “I feel we give possession up, not because of what’s happening with the other team, but instead ourselves just turning the puck over, whether it’s a bad pass or a pass in the skates. We just worked on a lot of passing this week, tried to transition the puck quickly and get the puck from side-to-side effectively. We have a young D-core back there that needs to work on things like that. That’s what we’ve spent the vast majority of this week on, but naturally today we’ll work on special teams and prepare for a tough Summerside group tomorrow.”
Between the pipes the Crushers have leaned on No. 1 Brandon Thibeau (8-2-1) who leads the league in minutes played with 6.70. He has a 3.04 GAA and 0.911 save percentage. Backup Devan Tremblay is 1-1 in two games with a 2.51 GAA and 0.896 save percentage. Malone said Thibeau has started to find a groove, something their team will need for them to be successful.
“I think the big thing for us was getting Brandon in a groove and I think it took a little bit of time,” he said. “Devan had a tough outing in his last opportunity against Miramichi so he’s itching to get back into the net and prove his worth, but Brandon is coming off a very strong weekend and I feel like he’s hit that groove. While we know Devan is a very capable goaltender we need to make sure Brandon feels comfortable in the net and at the same time is getting pushed by Devan. I’m sure if you asked that to Devan he would want more games, which is natural, but like I said our main concern is getting Brandon into a place that he’s comfortable in the net.”
Malone also confirmed this week the Andrew Graham has left the team. In eight games he had four goals and eight points for the Crushers as a 20-year-old.
“It’s always disappointing to see a player leave, but he was in a tough situation and the organization was in a tough spot,” said Malone. “Andrew made a decision and we support it. We wish him all the best in his endeavours wherever it takes him. He’s a very bright kid and he’s taking five courses at St. FX so he has a full course load. I think for him it was time to move on and wrap his head around becoming a full-time student and having a major focus at St. FX.”
His junior B rights are held by the Pictou County Scotians, although it’s unknown at this time if he will play for them.
Tonight’s game is also the lone game in just under a two-week period for the Crushers as their home game scheduled for Oct. 31 has been moved to Jan. 29. With a busy schedule over the past few months the team is looking forward to a weekend off.
“We really haven’t a weekend off so it’s going to be nice to allow our players to get out in the community and do a few things once Thursday night is over with,” said Malone. “Players need that down time as well. We were fairly busy over Thanksgiving weekend, so a lot of our guys didn’t have the opportunity to enjoy that time with their family and friends. Our focus right now is on Thursday night, but it will be nice to give our guys a little bit of time away from the rink.”
Goals for: 68
Goals against: 39
Vs. Summerside Capitals
Goals for: 36
Goals against: 54
Game time: 7 p.m. at the Pictou County Wellness Centre
On Twitter: @NGNewsChris