With a 6-6-1 record in the Saskatchewan Bantam AA Hockey League, the biggest thing that the Prince Albert Venice House Pirates have been looking for this year is a strong effort on a nightly basis.
They certainly did that this week, as they picked up a 6-1 win Monday over the Saskatoon Generals at the Art Hauser Centre and followed that up with a 4-1 triumph over the Humboldt Broncos at the Kinsmen Arena Wednesday.
“We came ready to play and we were focused on what we needed to do out there,” Pirates blueliner Cole Tanchuk said following Monday’s contest. “We hadn’t been doing that ever since we came back from the tournament in Medicine Hat earlier this month, so it was important for us to get into the right mentality again.
“We’re playing like a true team. There’s no fighting between one another in the dressing room…we all get along with one another.”
The back-to-back wins, which moved the Pirates into a tie for sixth in the North Division standings with the Broncos, was the step in the right direction that head coach Shawn Phaneuf was looking for.
“We’ve played a lot of hockey up to this point and I think that guys got complacent a little bit, especially compared to earlier this year where they were battling for spots on the team,” Phaneuf said. “We gave them a little reminder about that at practice this past week and it resulted in a good effort against Saskatoon.
“I think the biggest strength of this team is that they are a good group of kids. They want to learn and they give you everything they have even if the game isn’t going their way. That’s what you want to see when you are a coach.”
The Pirates have also had a chance to hit the tournament trail twice this season, as they competed in the Graham Tuer Bantam Challenge in Regina last month and the Medicine Hat Hockey Hounds Bantam Tournament in Medicine Hat two weeks ago.
“We had a really strong round-robin in Regina but we just lost out on the tiebreaker to finish first in our group,” Phaneuf said. “We ended up losing to Swift Current, but I felt like we played really in that game.
“It’s a little bit of a different level of play in Medicine Hat as you go against some of the prep schools, but we were in every game there except for one against St. George’s Academy from British Columbia.”
With their home tournament, which was to take place next weekend, being cancelled due to a lack of entries, the Pirates now have some time off before they go on the road for five games.
“The biggest thing we’re working on right now is on their skills, such as cycling the puck and chipping pucks out on defence,” Phaneuf said.
“We’re also making sure that we’re keeping our tempo going with some time off so that we are ready to go once the break ends.”
That road trip will begin in the provincial capital on Friday, Dec. 14 against the Regina Monarchs, with matchups the following two days in Swift Current and Moose Jaw against the Broncos and the Warriors
The Pirates will then visit the Martensville Marauders on Thursday, Dec. 20 and the Warman Wildcats a night later in their last game before Christmas.
They will return home on Wednesday, Jan. 9 to take on the Saskatoon Stallions at the Kinsmen Arena.