Stars focus on mental preparations ahead of tilt with Brooks

By Nathan Kanter
May 1, 2017 - 4:30pm Updated: May 1, 2017 - 8:57pm
Brooks defenceman Cale Makar (right, 8) will be one player to key in on when the North Stars and Bandits tangle on Tuesday afternoon at the Western Canada Cup.
Brooks defenceman Cale Makar (right, 8) will be one player to key in on when the North Stars and Bandits tangle on Tuesday afternoon at the Western Canada Cup.

Sunday's matinee against the Portage Terriers at the Western Canada Cup didn't go very well for the Battlefords North Stars.

But the team knows that and it's now old news.

At practice on Monday afternoon – one that only lasted 30 minutes – head coach and general manager Nate Bedford reiterated to the team about how important it is to focus on themselves.

He said not to worry about playing the Brooks Bandits tomorrow, who are 2-0 at the tournament so far and have gone a combined 63-5-5 this season in the Alberta Junior Hockey League combined in the regular season and playoffs en route to a league championship.

He also said to ignore the doubters, something they did all season long in Saskatchewan.

"I think yesterday our effort was indicative of the fact that we're listening to too many things, too many voicers, too many mouths [who don't know] what we're capable of doing," Bedford said. "The people that are talking about us probably see us in action about 10 per cent of the time. If you had a teacher that knew 10 per cent of the answers, would you believe in that teacher? So I don't know why we take advice or listen to what other people think about us that don't know our team.

"When we worry about the guys on the ice and who's in our dressing room, we're going to be successful."

Despite the 0-1-1 start, it's far from time to panic.

The round robin is only half over.

"We can easily win two games and we could easily hit the first and second [place] game," said North Stars forward Coby Downs after practice. "We got a point out of one and if you win the next two you get seven points [three points for a regulation win]. We have a lot of time left. We've just got to win the next two and we're fine."

"It's a tournament, right? Anything can happen," added forward Logan Nachtegaele. "We can beat anybody. We can still win this."

If they are going to win their next two games, they have to start by downing a deep Bandits squad who are in first place as of Monday afternoon.

The Bandits defeated the Chilliwack Chiefs 5-2 on Saturday afternoon and then won 4-3 in a shootout over Penticton on Sunday evening.

They are led by stud defenceman Cale Makar, who is likely going to be drafted in the top-10 in the NHL draft this upcoming June.

"You want to make sure you gap up with him. Don't be watching the puck with him," Bedford said. "Obviously respect his skillset but don't give him too much room. If you give him too much room he'll make you look silly."

In the two games so far, Brooks has scored eight goals to Battlefords four, and 13 players on the Bandits have recorded at least a point, to Battlefords eight.

Makar has three points, but so do forwards Josh McKechney and Parker Foo, while four others have two points.

"They've got four lines that can score," Bedford said. "They've got real active 'D' that can score, they've got good goaltending and I think what we need to be cognicent of is making sure that we don't get beat 4-on-3 to our net.

"Guys are going to jump up into the play and we want to make sure that we've got heads on swivels and we come back with them."

Bedford wouldn't reveal any potential lineup changes yet, preferring to wait until the day of to announce if anything will change.

Joel Gryzbowski is the expected starter, as he has been a bright spot so far with 64 saves on 70 shots.

Other than him, there haven't been too may standouts performances.

"We just need to work in every zone better," Downs said. "Our d-zone hasn't been very [good], in our neutral zone we're not getting pucks deep, we're not working them, [and] we're not really scoring."

"We need to bring up [our compete level]," Nachtegaele said. "Against Portage there, it didn't seem like we had it in us. Our compete level in practice is amazing all the time, throughout the season, throughout playoffs and we just took an afternoon off and it could eventually cost us."

Tuesday's game is set for 3 p.m. Saskatchewan time and as always, can be heard live on CJNB/CJNS beginning with the Ultra Print pre-game show a half hour before.

"We just need to be mentally prepared to compete and we'll be much better tomorrow for sure," Bedford said. "You'll see a different team."

 

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