The Avon River Rats are looking to secure a few more points before playoffs begin in February.
The Rats are currently in seventh place, one point from sixth place, six points back from fourth place and 20 points behind the league-leading Chester Clippers.
Head Coach Rick Purcell said the team is focused on the upcoming five games.
“The next five games are crucial because we can move up to fifth, fourth (place), maybe,” said Purcell.
“Not that we have an easy schedule coming up,” he added. “We have Spryfield twice, Clare, Shannon and Fundy in the next five games. We need a good eight points, from those five games, and there's only one way we'll do that.”
Purcell said the players are committed to the team but just need to be more disciplined in their approach on the ice.
On Sunday, Jan. 6, the Rats hosted the Clippers in Brooklyn and were crushed 7-1.
“It's the top team in the league. They've had one loss this year. They didn't lose any games last year,” said Purcell.
“We came out... and played a good first period against them and then the second period, our players got stupid. We got dumb penalties — not just penalties but dumb penalties,” he continued. “We played the first period hitting them, riling the other team up, getting them agitated but the second period, they went a little too far — getting shots in after the whistle, slashes and hooks that they shouldn't be doing.”
By the third period, the teams were playing pretty evenly again.
The Rats played a strong first period against the Clippers, with only the Clippers' alternate captain, Kyle Dilosa, scoring, unassisted, with just two minutes remaining on the clock.
The second period, however, was a different story.
“The second period really killed us in this game. Against a strong team, you can't do that. We were five on three for about five minutes against the best team in the league. Of course they're going to score.”
Jack Strowbridge opened and closed the period with goals, while Alex Armstrong scored twice as well.
Heading into the third period, the score was 5-0. The River Rats accumulated 46 penalty minutes, 20 of which were from two game misconducts. The Clippers had just 20 minutes; 10 coming from a game misconduct.
The third period opened with Jeremy Church scoring on the power-play, to put the Clippers up 6-0. With 6:33 remaining in the game, Avon River Rats team captain, David Phillips, put the hometown team on the scoreboard on the power-play. Assists went to Corey Dewtie and Phil Mullin.
Church finished the scoring with just 20 seconds left in the period.
Coleman Ueffing was tagged with the loss while Ben Bailey earned the win in nets.
The Rats received a total of 60 penalty minutes, while the Clippers had 47.
Purcell is optimistic the guys can learn from the loss heading into the final regular season games.
“If we can get our team a little bit more disciplined and playing like we did the first period, we can beat any other team in the league — including this one if it comes down to it.”
The River Rats host the Clare Lions this Sunday, Jan. 13 at 1 p.m. For fans of Jr. C hockey that can't make the commute to Brooklyn, the Rats will be playing their last home game of the season out of the Hants Exhibition Arena in Windsor.
The game, at 7:45 p.m. on Feb. 1, will be against the Spryfield Silver and Black Attack.
“We always have really good games against Spryfield,” said Purcell. “That (game) may make the difference as to who we play in the playoffs. It'll be very good to have some support out there for that one.”