Inconsistent – that’s one word that comes to mind when head coach Brad Peddle reflects on the first half of the Atlantic University Sport (AUS) hockey regular season.
“There were certainly some ups and downs, in terms of getting on a roll,” he said.
In a stretch of streaks – both winning and losing – the Blue and White posted a 9-7-2 mark in the pre-Christmas schedule of the regular campaign.
As for that ‘inconsistency,’ Peddle said there have been a variety of factors that have “played into that.”
“In our first five games, we were 1-2-2, all one-goal games – where our play was pretty good,” Peddle said.
He added their early-season mark easily could have been 3-2 or 4-1.
“We got on a really good roll and we won six in a row,” Peddle said.
And then, he added, the X-Men ran into a “really, really good UNB team,” and dropped a pair of lopsided contests to the AUS-leading Reds, who are also ranked #1 in U Sports.
“We didn’t play that well in those games,” Peddle noted.
After a loss to UPEI, in keeping with the aforementioned theme of inconsistency, St. F.X. won a pair and then ended the first half with two one-goal losses.
“There were times when it looked like we were really going to get on a roll, but – for whatever reason – we just couldn’t find that consistency,” Peddle said.
Injury bug bites
Peddle noted injuries have also contributed to the roller coaster ride, of sorts, for the X-Men so far this season.
“We had some key guys out for extended periods of time,” he said.
Peddle added, in the AUS, “injuries can make you or break you.”
“One of the key things, as we reset for the second half, is getting healthy and having a full line-up for that push to the playoffs,” he said.
Holden Cook, Cole MacDonald and Bryson Cianfrone were all on the shelf for six weeks, while Santino Centorame was out of the line-up for the final two weeks before the holiday break.
“Those are big players for us, but we were still able to pick up points and stay in the hunt,” Peddle said.
With a full line-up, he agreed, the X-Men have the pieces necessary for a successful post-season puzzle.
“We are young on defense, but we have a veteran group here – especially up front and in net,” Peddle said.
“We have players who have proven, in the second half that they can find ways to win during the most important times of the year.”
When it comes to the power play and penalty kill, Peddle said they have “to get more consistent.”
“Winning one-goal games is about your special teams,” he added.
“This year, our power play has been hot and cold. In the second half, it is going to have to be a difference maker.
“Because, when you are in that 3-2 game and your power play can get you that goal to make it 4-2 or to tie it up 3-3, it makes a huge difference.”
Peddle said they didn’t “give up a lot,” when it comes to playing their defensive system.
“We just need to make sure that we are producing a little more – five-on-five and on the power play – in close one-goal games,” he added.
With that said, Peddle noted, the X-Men will lean on their veterans to spearhead a playoff push.
“But, again, being healthy is going to be key to all of that,” he added.
In mid-November, the X-Men added forward Jeremiah Addison, a 2015 Montreal Canadiens’ draft pick, to the roster.
“We can probably announce soon – just not yet,” Peddle said of another forward joining their line-up in the second half.
Like Addison, he added, the player’s contributions will be focussed more on the 2019 season.
“We are still working the details out on that one,” Peddle said of the latest player who will be joining the X-Men.
With 20 points, the X-Men trail the rival Saint Mary’s Huskies (23) and Reds (33) in the conference standings.
“It is going to make for an exciting push in the second half,” Peddle said, noting the competitive balance in the AUS this season.
He added “all the teams have gotten better.”
“Right now, going into the break, there is four points separating second and fifth place, which is incredible,” Peddle said.
“It is going to make for an exciting second half in the sense that every game is now, basically, a playoff game.”