**Taken from the Tuesday, Nov. 13 edition of The Saint Croix Courier.
St. Stephen – It would be fair to say Aces Head Coach, Emery Olauson, and Associate Coach, Bill Rotheisler, are frustrated with the current run of losses the Aces have put up. Having fallen several games running, the Aces simply aren’t meeting their undeniable potential. The team fell 4-3 in overtime play to the Grand Falls Rapids on Friday at the Garcelon Civic Center.
“At any given time over this last stretch of games it feels like we’ve got a handful of guys really, really playing well and giving us a chance, and it’s just a matter of guessing right on that handful,” said Olauson after the game.
“At the end of the day, we played about 20 good minutes, 20 average minutes, and 20 not great minutes.”
“I don’t know how to say this without using a cliché,” said Rotheisler. “You reap what you sow. We can sit here and feel bad for not playing well, but we’re underachieving. That’s the reality of it.
“We have to realize we’re underachieving and fix it. Or we’ll continue.
“Like Emery said, there’s a handful – it’s not everybody – most of the guys are playing pretty well, and that’s allowing us to stay in these games. But there’s a couple of guys who are playing selfish right now.”
But in hockey, and a 60 minute game, a handful is all it takes. The Aces certainly don’t lack talent or skill. Watch them practise, talk to the players and staff, and the knowledge and dedication are undeniable.
“Maybe we have to look internally at coaching and what we can do better as coaches for sure. We’ll take a look at that,” said Rotheisler. “But we also have to look at what we can do better as managers. Maybe we’re giving too much faith to some of our guys.”
The Aces also saw some player shifts again this week. Gone as quickly as he arrived is Shawn Campbell, and in his place is 18-year-old Michael Johnson from the Calgary Canucks.
“It was a short little test, we’ll say,” said Rotheisler of Campbell’s brief moment as an Ace. “(Jaromir) Jagr spent more time as a (Calgary) Flame than Campbell spent as an Ace,” he laughed.
“It is what it is. It’s part of it. If it wasn’t for that happening, we wouldn’t have been motivated to acquire Mike Johnson, and we’re really happy with Mike, so we made a good batch of lemonade out of those lemons.”
“With Johnson we went out and got what we really think we needed – a little bit more grit with that speed,” said Olauson.
“He got a pretty big time shot tonight that didn’t go into the back of the net, but he had some chances.”
So, with the ongoing struggles to get that 60 minute effort from every shift on the ice, are there further changes ahead for this roster?
“We’re always looking,” said Rotheisler. “When you have several losses in a row, you might look a little harder.”
“Obviously you’re always looking to change within – the loyalty, Bill calls it blind loyalty – yeah, we’re getting to the point of the season where the benefit of the doubt is starting to wear off,” added Olauson.
“Now we’re getting a lot of proof of what you can and can’t do as a player, and what we can and can’t trust you with.
“I wouldn’t say the message is change is coming, but the winning recipe and the winning attitude has to.
“There are some guys who are consistently showing us some bad habits, and we need to break those.
“At home, against the only team in our division below us, we have to do better than that,” he said.
“It would have been nice to get a win, but what can you do,” said the newest Ace, no. 11, Michael Johnson. Having just arrived in St. Stephen on Thursday evening, the right wing had only the Friday morning skate to acquaint himself with the team prior to the Friday night tilt.
“Tough bounce in overtime there. I thought I played alright – could have been a little better, but threw some hits. Team is looking good, things are looking up.”
And Olauson’s comments of grit and speed aren’t overstated – on the ice, Johnson is fast, and takes those chances the team needs to be taking. And he comes in with a real desire to be part of the young group.
“I asked for a trade out of Calgary – I didn’t like the environment there. This is, from what I’ve seen so far, I absolutely love it here. It’s nice for sure.”
“As a team we only played 40 minutes instead of 60 minutes. It’s a tough one,” said the fastest dude on skates, no. 25, Everett Hicks, after the game. Hicks scored two of the team’s three goals on Friday night, efforts Olauson lauds as the simple result of the centre’s hard work on and off the ice.
“A couple of chances we could have buried on,” said Hicks.
“A couple of shifts we just sat back and watched the play instead of going at ‘em, and they capitalized on that.
“A 60 minute effort, I think we would have won that game.”
But Hicks is philosophical about the team going forward, and doesn’t seem concerned with their future as the season progresses.
“We’re still young, and there’s still over half the season left.”
The Aces hit the ice at home again against the Edmundston Blizzard on Thursday, Dec. 6 at the Garcelon Civic Center. Puck drop is 7 p.m.