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STRUGGLING COYOTES ‘GO BACK TO THE DRAWING BOARD’ FOLLOWING ANOTHER PAIR OF WEEKEND LOSSES
After another dreadful weekend, it’s time to “go back to the drawing board” for the Osoyoos Coyotes.
After an amazing 12-2 start to begin the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League (KIJHL) regular season, the Coyotes have fallen on hard times as they have now lost nine of their last 10 games, including getting hammered twice this past weekend.
The Coyotes started the weekend by dropping a 7-2 decision to the North Okanagan Knights on the road. They didn’t fare any better on home ice Saturday night against the Sicamous Eagles as they fell behind early and were never in the contest while dropping a 7-3 decision.
The Coyotes now sport a record of 13-11 and have fallen into second place in the Okanagan-Shuswap Division, several points behind the Princeton Posse and one point in front of the Kelowna Chiefs.
Head coach and general manager Ken Law said he had a long and detailed discussion with his players following a difficult practice Monday afternoon.
“We had a really good talk about all the things we did right our first 12 games and all of the things we have been doing wrong over the past 12 games,” said Law. “I think the players are now aware that they have to get back to the same work ethic and determination to do the little things at both ends of the ice that they had earlier in the season.
“We’re basically going back to the drawing board and starting over because we have to get back to playing the kind of hockey we’re capable of or we’re not going to get out of this funk we’ve been in for the last month.”
The team scored 30 more goals than they allowed over the first dozen games, but have allowed almost 30 more than they have scored during the recent slump, said Law.
“We’re not taking shots when we should be and we’re not getting back on defence to help out when we should be,” he said. “We’re also turning the puck over way too much in the defensive zone and it seems like every time we have a turnover it ends up in the back of our net.
“The boys are very frustrated, but they know the only way to turn this around is to get back to doing what they were doing earlier in the season. I think we’ve proven we have the talent to play with the best teams in this league and now it’s up to us to start committing to doing the little things that make such a big difference in hockey games.”
With the league’s trade deadline quickly approaching, Law said the Coyotes may be looking to make a deal or two in the next week or so.
“We’re not looking at any wholesale changes, but a lot of teams are looking to unload players as the trade deadline approaches and we’ll be looking at who is available and who might be able to help,” said Law. “I wouldn’t mind shoring up our defence with a player or two and you’re always looking to see if you can add a player that might be able to add some offence up front.”
On Saturday night, a talented and very quick Sicamous team scored three goals in the opening nine minutes and were never threatened the rest of the way.
Alex Grupe scored the first Coyotes goal to close the gap to 3-1, but Sicamous extended the lead to 4-1 with a goal with only 65 seconds to play in the opening frame.
Scott Folden managed to knock in a rebound with only 18 seconds remaining in the first period to close the cap to 4-2.
Sicamous extended the lead to 5-2 as Kelyn Opel scored on a great individual effort early in the second period and Connor Buick netted a late goal to give the Eagles a big 6-2 lead after 40 minutes of play.
Grupe scored his second of the night early in the third period, but the Coyotes never challenged as Sicamous scored a goal in the last minute of play to take the 7-3 victory.
Against North Okanagan, Austin Lee opened the scoring for the Coyotes, but the Knights tied the game with a goal late in the period.
North Okanagan scored a pair of second-period goals, while Darren Martin scored for the Coyotes. The Knights dominated the third period, scoring four unanswered goals to cruise to the 7-2 victory.
Law said he remains hopeful his struggling hockey club will turn things around.
“I think we’ve sort of hit rock bottom, but we have to realize we can’t change things overnight,” he said. “We have to get back to playing hard and being committed.”
The Coyotes host the Penticton Lakers Friday night and Kamloops Saturday night. They also host Kelowna next Wednesday night. All games are at the Sun Bowl Arena with puck drop set for 7:35 p.m.