Well, it would seem as though something has finally clicked for this slow starting Trojan team.
What that something might be, could be as simple as a fresh start in the new year. Maybe the Trojans’ resolution was to improve their record. Or maybe, just maybe, there’s a little more to it.
Let’s take a look, shall we?
Coming out of 2015 the Trojans had amassed a mediocre 6-8-0-4 record, and their goal differential was in the red for the first time in years.
Recently, play has seen the SAIT squad bring their heads above water for the first time this season, bolstering their record up to a respectable 10-8-0-4, the aforementioned goal differential back in the black, and anchoring their power play and penalty kill with team structure and less heroic efforts.
It shouldn’t be a huge surprise that this now underdog troupe came out guns blazing in 2016, but after four straight W’s to ring in the new year, the hope is, yet again, that it isn’t fitful motivation fueling this team.
“I think teams are going to underestimate us now,” said Trojan forward and captain Riley Paterson after a decisive 6-0 victory over the Briercrest Clippers on Saturday.
“We’re in a position to take a lot of teams by surprise now, so we can’t let off the gas. Four straight is nice, but we have to carry it forward.”
Albeit all four victories in 2016 have come over teams that the Trojans should be dominating —or at the very least beating, in Concordia (5-13-3-1) and Briercrest (2-20)— but it can be just those kinds of games that are needed to build confidence in a wavering roster such as this one.
2016 also marked the introduction of a plethora of new players, some of which are already making a noticeable impact. Players like Jari Erricson (in his first year of eligibility), who is transitioning from the WHL where he spent five seasons split between the Everett Silvertips and the Prince George Cougars, most noticeably tallying 44 points in 64 games with the Cougars in 2014-15.
“Bringing in talent like Jari is great for us,” explained head coach Dan Olsen. “It gives us another option, another weapon to use on the ice, and it shows the guys in the room that they have to play to keep their spot on this team.
“Keeping the guys motivated is a huge part of cleaning this season up.”
Given the up and down play of the Trojans this season, the word “motivated” should be taken with a grain of salt. Not to say the effort isn’t there, but on some nights this season, it simply hasn’t been.
With arguably the season’s biggest test coming up Jan. 22 and 23 against the undefeated NAIT Ooks (20-0), the Trojans will have their hands full and will have an opportunity to prove that it hasn’t been lesser opponents and dumb luck that has 2016 looking so bright.
Regardless, if the last four games are any indicator of things to come, the light at the end the tunnel that is this season may actually be light, and not an oncoming train.