Late Season Struggles Have Blades Coach Concerned

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Late-season struggles have Blades coach concerned

Perhaps it’s looking ahead in anticipation of the playoffs, or maybe it’s the fact that they can’t possibly move either up or down in the standings.

Whatever the reason, the Oakville Blades are stumbling down the home stretch of the Ontario Junior Hockey League season.

A 5-2 defeat at the hands of the Buffalo Jr. Sabres Tuesday in Buffalo marked the Blades’ third straight loss, and fourth in their past five contests. Oakville, which has been outscored 14-4 in its last three games, will close out the regular season this weekend with games against the Burlington Cougars and Brampton Capitals.

“It’s always a concern when you drop (four of five) heading into the playoffs,” Blades head coach Matt Moore said Tuesday. “I think sometimes our kids get looking too far in advance. They want to start competing (in the playoffs).”

Oakville (30-11-6) has been locked into second place in the West Division since last weekend. The Blades are nine points behind the division-leading Georgetown Raiders (37-9-1), and 15 points ahead of the third-place Sabres (23-19-5).

That might explain some recent complacency, but Moore is determined to rectify that. After the Blades close out the regular season this weekend, Moore is planning some rigorous practices for the week-long stretch that Oakville will be off with a first-round playoff bye.

“We’ll probably go harder than ever before,” the coach said. “More intensity and focus on assignments. We’ll focus on what we do best.”

Ashton Anderson and Martin Kudla scored in Tuesday’s loss for the Blades, who were outshot 42-25 on the night. Kyle Blaney had Oakville’s lone marker in a 3-1 loss to the Aurora Tigers Sunday afternoon at Sixteen Mile Sports Complex, when Aurora outshot the Blades 38-24.

Fan appreciation night Friday

Oakville will play its final home game of the regular season Friday against Brampton, a 7:30 p.m. start at Sixteen Mile.

Special plans for the evening include honouring the team’s senior graduating players, a cheque presentation to the Canadian Cancer Society for nearly $12,000 raised by the recent Pink in the Rink event, and intermission entertainment as part of fan appreciation night.

The Oakville Speed Skating Club will hold a demonstration during the first intermission, while a ‘Battle of the Mascots’ hockey game during the second intermission will feature Blades mascot Bandit, Toronto Maple Leafs mascot Carlton the Bear, Toronto Argonauts mascot Jason, Toronto Rock mascot Iggy and other area mascots. Goalies for the event will be provided by the Oakville bantam BB Hornets girls’ squad.

The Blades then visit the Cougars the following evening.

Oakville likely won’t begin the second round of the playoffs until Feb. 21.

Jon Kuiperij

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