The Rapids played two games last week, coming up short on both occasions.
Thursday night was a tough outing, especially on the defensive front, as the Edmundston Blizzard scored 9 goals in a 9-4 victory over Grand Falls.
Things didn’t go that bad for the Rapids early on as they held a 3-1 lead early in the second period. Then the Blizzard stormed back with 5 goals before the end of the frame to take a 6-4 advantage. Edmundston dominated the third period by adding three more goals.
Newcomer Charles-Antoine Julien played his first game between the pipes for the Rapids as he was greeted with 42 shots on goal by a well-balanced Blizzard offense that seems to get better as the season progresses.
The Rapids did end however a 4-game power play scoring drought and showed more aggressiveness in opposing territory while taking more shots on net.
Then Friday night against the visiting Valley Wildcats, the Rapids had a timid start to the game as they saw their opponents take a 3-0 lead after two periods of play. Yannic Bastarache, Ben Diamond and Josh Russell scored in order for Grand Falls in the third, bringing the score to 3-3. But seconds after Russell’s tying goal, his first as a Rapid, a blocked shot sent two Valley players alone on netminder Frédéric Plourde, giving them the lead for good.
The 6-3 defeat comes at a high price for the Rapids as they now trail the Miramichi Timberwolves by 8 points for the fourth and final playoff spot available in the Eastlink North division standings. Even though there is still sufficient time left to cut into that margin, the first and foremost objective for the team is to put an end to the winless streak… not only to add precious points to the standings, but mostly to regain the confidence of a squad that seems to be affected greatly with each and every loss.
The coaching staff is working extremely hard with the players in trying to get things going in the right direction.
“We are working on staying positive and continuing to work hard. Our confidence has taken a hit, so our game is not so much about the X’s and O’s as it is the mental part of the game”, mentions head coach Greg Leland.
“When frustration sets in, it can snowball and we….the coaching staff and players together….need to stick with it and keep going. Fortunately, our players seem to understand that, and they come to the rink each day willing to put the effort in and keep taking steps forward”.
As pointed out by the head coach, the mental part of the game needs to be perfected once players start questioning their abilities and their will to become successful. However, it should be pointed out that this is the same squad that was so efficient in many facets of the game before the holiday break, even going on a winning streak while coming from behind on many occasions. That confidence level was actually at a very high peak at one point. To regain that confidence, small steps have to be taken and instead of only looking at what is going wrong, they will need to focus also on the positives despite the final result.
Actually, some positive things came out of the last two games: against the Blizzard, the Rapids did have the lead at one point, but keeping momentum was the problem. And in Friday night’s game against Valley, they did come from behind after falling down by three goals after two periods. Playing at a high intensity level during three periods is one thing that could get the team moving forward.
The Rapids will get the opportunity to play in front of their fans on two occasions this upcoming weekend and try to put an end to an 8-game winless streak. Friday night, they host the Miramichi Timberwolves, the team they are chasing for that final playoff spot in the standings. Then on Sunday afternoon, the Campbellton Tigers are the visitors. Fans are encouraged to come and show their support to the team!
*The Rapids’ record now stands at 14 wins and 16 losses for 28 points. They are 8-points back of Miramichi for 4th spot in the Eastlink North division standings. Grand Falls has a record of 8 wins and 8 losses on the road this season. They have 6 wins and 8 losses on home ice.
The Edmundston Blizzard now lead the division with a record of 22-11-1 for 45 points, which is 4 points better than the Campbellton Tigers. Summerside sits in third spot with 39 points, but with only 29 games played on the schedule.
*In the Eastlink South, the Yarmouth Mariners have an 11-point lead on the Truro Bearcats for top spot. Teams that follow in order in the standings: Valley, Pictou County, Amherst and South Shore.
*Yannic Bastarache leads the Rapids in scoring with 17 goals and 24 assists for 41 points. He is followed by Ben Diamond (15g;17a; 32pts), Dominic LeBlanc (13g; 15a; 28pts) and Mathis Huot (9g; 15a; 24pts).
Huot had a great last week for the Rapids, picking up 5 points (2g 3a) in two games. Huot now has a 3-game scoring streak going for him.
*Next games on the schedule:
Friday January 20: Miramichi at Rapids (7:30 pm)
Sunday January 22: Campbellton at Rapids (3 pm)