The Battlefords North Stars chose a bad time to not show up.
In their second game at the Western Canada Cup, they fell 5-3 to the Portage Terriers to fall to 0-1-1 halfway through the round robin after losing 2-1 in overtime to Penticton on Saturday.
According to head coach and general manager Nate Bedford, the team lay an egg on Sunday.
"We didn't want to put pucks in dirty areas and we lost. It's that simple, really," Bedford said. "When we play tough, we're good. When we're mentally and physically soft like we were today, we lose to anybody. So it's too bad.
"It was a long afternoon. We just didn't have an answer for anything. We didn't win battles. We didn't stay out of the box. We didn't go to the net. It's one of those things where if you don't do the little things right, teams are going to beat up on you."
Bedford said he knows the North Stars will be better, and he recognizes it's more frustrating when it's fresh, but he only listed a few names when asked if there were any positives from the game.
"We're at the Western Canada Cup. We should be flying right now. We should be excited about this," he said. "Portage played a great game. It took them some time to get going. It took them a period I think just to get in sync with us. But that wasn't our identity. We might have had five turnovers on bluelines. That's not us. Our defencemen are getting walked around. That's not us. We're a gritty, tough, proud, confident team and we were none of that [this afternoon]."
The shots on goal for the game favoured Portage 33-31.
The Manitoba Junior Hockey League champions scored three times on the man advantage and were led by Chase Brakel, who had two goals, and defenceman Mackenzie Dwyer, who also scored twice and added an assist as well.
Bedford said a lack of discipline was a bigger worry than the penalty kill allowing three goals.
"We don't play tough but then we run at guy's heads and try to be tough that way. It's counter productive right now," he said. "Thankfully our PK has been good. We're not blocking shots, it's all goaltending. It's unfortunate right now that we're taking such bad penalties."
North Stars goalie Joel Gryzbowski allowed four goals but played very well yet again, making 28 saves.
On one of the power play goals, a dump-in from centre that was rimmed around the boards hit the stantion in the corner and ended up rolling straight into the slot where Brakel made no mistake. Gryzbowski was waiting behind the net for the dump in to go around the boards, and there was nothing he could do about it.
"The good thing is when you have a tough bounce off the boards or the glass like that, goalies can sometimes crumble and he didn't," Bedford said of his goaltender. "I was really proud of him for that. He came right back and fought. If there's one guy who was fighting right until the end it was certainly him."
The power play was horrendous after going 0-for-6 against Penticton on Saturday.
It finished 0-for-3 on Sunday.
"We're going to start declining them I think," Bedford said sarcastically. "It must be easy to defend our PP when we don't get shots on net and everything is on the outside. If you just wait in a box, you can beat it. So there's the scouting report for the next two [teams] we play."
The North Stars outshot Portage 13-7 in the first and went into the intermission up 1-0 thanks to a Ben Allen goal.
After 40, they were down 2-1 when Brakel and Dwyer each scored. Those two would add goals in the first half of the third to make it a 4-1 game before Connor Logan and Keaton Holinaty finally gave the North Stars some life late in the third. But by then it was too late.
Ty Enns added an empty netter for Portage with 9.8 seconds to go to ensure the win for his club in their first game at the tournament.
The North Stars face the favoured Brooks Bandits on Tuesday afternoon at 3 p.m. Saskatchewan time. The Bandits defeated Chilliwack 5-2 on Saturday afternoon and play the host Penticton Vees on Sunday evening. Brooks went 12-1 in their Alberta Junior Hockey Leaguye playoff run and 51-5-4 in the regular season.
"Our guys will bounce back. They always do," Bedford said. "I think we're going to get some leadership. I really do. I think Fransoo is going to get these guys going again. I think he always does and obviously [Connor] Sych and [Reed] Delainey and [Logan] Nachtegaele will get these guys going and those guys will lead the way. There's not much I'm going to do to change it. They're going to change the perspective here a little bit and come back down to reality and realize we still have to work here. I think we're going to be OK. I've not waving a flag here.
The Ultra Print pre-game show will get you all set for the action on CJNB/CJNS at 2:30 p.m.
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