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Junior B Knights learn a lesson as playoffs loom

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It was a gentle and timely reminder that they can’t always score seven goals to get out of trouble.

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On the verge of claiming the Capital Junior Hockey League regular season title with three games to play and a four-point lead over the Beaumont Chiefs, the Sherwood Park Junior B Knights have been reminded that the things will get tougher in the second season of their latest outing.

Last Sunday against the West Division-leading St. Albert Merchants (22-9-0-4), the league-leading Knights fell to 28-5-0-2 with a narrow 2-0 loss. -1.

“It was a very close game, both ways,” said Knights head coach Tyler Steele, who is in his first real season coaching the team, as an attempt to save a season during the pandemic last year saw the Sherwood squad limited to playing just three games. “St. Albert has a deep team. They don’t necessarily have high firepower, but they are four lines deep, they play well in their own end and they move well in the neutral zone. We had some penalty issues, but our killers were eating a lot of shots. We got the better of them in the third period, but their goaltender played well and they took advantage of a gift in our own zone. I think we played well, but it’s indicative of how the playoffs are going to go and it’s a bit of a wake-up call. We were lucky enough when we didn’t play well to answer the bell later and end up running away with a lot of games. But it was a case where we caught a hot keeper and couldn’t get out of it. This is how the playoffs are going to be, every shift is going to count. It was not a negative point. We can get something out of it. »

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Photo courtesy of Target Photography

Scoring just one goal in their last outing was an odd thing for the Knights, who outscored their opponents 216-112 this season, averaging 6.17 goals per game.

Steele felt it was a blow for a team that looks set for a long playoff streak.

“Over the past two weeks we’ve noticed a really different focus and level of intensity,” he said. “We are delighted. We are healthy for the first time in the whole season. All of our lines are starting to take on some identity. You can feel the tension. The boys have been waiting for this. We are preparing for a race.

“We have very talented kids, some of whom have played at very elite levels and we are lucky to have them. But most importantly, we have 25 good humans on this list who have a good work ethic and take care of each other.

The Knights were led by forward Carson Pawlenchuk, who has 36 goals and 74 points in 31 games.

“He’s a kid who can bury,” Steele said. “He’s a game-breaker. He has intense speed, is a great penalty killer and his shooting is next level. His vision is elitist and he’s also a good human and a good teammate. He doesn’t want to let it be his last kick in hockey and I think he has a very good opportunity to move on after this season. We intend to transform our team into a program that will help young people extend their careers in hockey if they want to.”

The Knights host the North Edmonton Red Wings (21-10-1-1) Friday at 8:30 p.m. at Sherwood Park Arena and have two more regular season games to play after that.

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