It was the proverbial one step forward, two steps back for the Battlefords AAA Stars this weekend.
On Saturday, they took down the last-place Notre Dame Argos 7-2, thanks to a four-goal and two-assist performance from Adam Beckman. They were outshot in the game 39-30, including 19-5 in the second, but it didn't matter because of the offensive explosion.
On Sunday, however, defence was the difference, as the Stars lost 7-4 to the Swift Current Legionnaires.
"Last night was a great game. We had lots of offence. Tonight, we made too mistakes," Stars head coach Norm Johnston said following Sunday's loss, the team's seventh loss in nine January games so far. "We were telling the kids back up, back up, because they come so hard [but] we got caught wth too many 2-on-1's. Too many 3-on-2's. They outnumbered us through the neutral zone and into the offensive zone and that's what they do.
"They skate really well but they come so hard on you. As soon as that 'D' gets the puck, he sends the weak side guy and the middle guy, gone."
Early in the game, after the Stars got out to a 1-0 lead, Johnston said the team did get the message to back up, but they took it too far.
"After we got the first goal, we backed up and backed up and...now we're backing up and giving them shots," he said. "Now we're not taking the body anymore. Not closing lanes off."
While those were the issues that plagued the Stars on Sunday, there is a pattern that has been giving them problems for much of 2018, and has contributed to why they are currently three points out of a playoff spot.
"We have one line now that scores," Johnston said. "Beckman scores and Beckman was really good last night and really good again today. So [when it's] 5-4 halfway through the hockey game, hang on to it and just wait for the Beckman line to come back on and score. They dominated that team down low all night."
The Stars allowed the sixth goal on an odd-man rush with under 10 minutes left in the third and then allowed another goal 1:42 later, to fall by a final of 7-4.
After his six-point performance on Saturday, Beckman had a hat-trick and an assist on Sunday. His 61 points this season are second in the league.
Linemate Ty Mosimann is right there with Beckman among the league's top scorers. He had five points in the two weekend games and has 58 points on the season in 36 games, good for third in league scoring.
"How do we have a guy in second place in the scoring race and a guy in [third] place in the scoring race...and we're fighting for our lives in the playoffs? That doesn't correlate. That does not correlate," Johnston wondered aloud. "But 830 minutes in penalties, that correlates. That's why we're in the eighth spot."
As Johnston pointed out, the Stars have an issue with discipline.
They have 57 more penalty minutes as a team than the second-highest penalized Notre Dame Argos. But among the 10 teams battling for a playoff spot, they have 141 more penalty minutes than the second highest (Yorkton, with 687).
"It's been a tough year," Johnston said.
The Stars will host the Prince Albert Mintos on Wednesday, who are 27-6-2-1 this season.
After that, they only have seven regular season games left to try to make up ground and try to squeak into the playoffs.
On Twitter: @NathanKanter11
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