One of the biggest beneficiaries of having time off during Christmas may have been the Prince Albert Venice House Bantam Pirates.
Although part of their extended break was a result of their home tournament being cancelled due to a lack of teams, a few weeks away from the rink has given the side a renewed sense of energy as they great up for the Saskatchewan Bantam AA Hockey League’s North Division playoffs.
“We’re starting to peak now and I think we’re coming along with where we should be at this part of the season,” Pirates head coach Shawn Phaneuf said.
“We played the bulk of our games before Christmas and I think the fatigue factor was starting to set in a bit, especially with the tournaments that we played in, the Sask First events and the chances our guys had to suit up with the Mintos. After a nice break, the guys had an improved focus and they all bought in to what we are doing, which has led to our success.”
One of the biggest results for the 13-10-2-1 Pirates, who are tied for fifth in the North Division standings with the Humboldt Broncos, came on Wednesday, Jan. 30 at the Kinsmen Arena as they handed the league-leading Martensville Marauders their second loss of the season in a 7-4 contest.
“That was a big boost for us,” Phaneuf said. “Everyone excused the game plan and it was a strong performance from our team.
“It’s been a total team effort as of late. Everyone’s chipping in when it comes to our defensive zone play and we’re getting secondary scoring as well.”
Six members of the Pirates roster have also been rewarded for their efforts this season, as Linden Gamble, Brooks Nyberg, Cole Tanchuk, Matthew Henry, Ryan Lepitzki and Zachary Svenson will be taking part in the SaskFirst Top 80 Bantam Tournament in Saskatoon from Feb. 15-17.
“That’s a great opportunity for those guys,” Phaneuf said. “It really helps players to play against the top guys in their age group, as it allows them to boost up their level of play.”
After a road game against the Saskatoon Maniacs on Tuesday, Feb. 26, the Pirates will host the Warman Wildcats at 8 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 27 in their home regular season finale.
They will then visit the Humboldt Broncos on Saturday, March 2 and the North East Wolfpack in Nipawin on Sunday, March 3 before starting the playoffs.