There’s a different attitude in the Prince Albert Titans locker room this season.
Heading into a home game with the Pilot Butte Storm on Friday night at the Kinsmen Arena, the Prairie Junior Hockey League side have an 8-10-3 record and are tied for third place in Bob Dybvig Division standings with the Delisle Chiefs.
“It’s very exciting for the boys,” Titans head coach and director of hockey operations Kim Dryka said. “In the past, we might have been out of a playoff spot at this part of the year, but now we are very much in the mix.
“You can see in our players’ eyes how much they are enjoying this. They have a smile on their faces when they coming into the rink and there’s an extra jump in our practices and our games.”
A huge part of their success came from an excellent month of November, as they posted a 7-0-1 mark, with their only setback coming in a 5-4 overtime contest with the Assiniboia Southern Rebels on Sunday, Nov. 24.
“We started off the year a little slow as it took some time for the guys to buy into the system,” Dryka said. “Some of our guys were new to the league and I think the pace of play was a little bit faster than they thought, but we preached them to be patient and good things would happen.
“Once we all got on the same page, everything’s really started to roll for us. We can’t look too far ahead though as we have a lot of games before the Christmas break and the standings are very close.”
Tanner Hendriks has been the key weapon on offence thus far for the Titans, as the 19-year-old forward leads the team in scoring with 26 points in 20 games, which has him 11th among all players in the PJHL.
“He’s a very talented hockey player,” Dryka said. “Tanner knows where to go and he’s smart with the puck, which allows him to put up points whenever he’s on the ice.
“It’s obviously a team game and there are a lot of guys who are finding their stride as of late, but Tanner is someone that we lean on and you can see that with his point per game pace.”
The Titans have also split goaltending duties thus far as third-year netminder Travis Dryka and rookie Carson Schewaga have each picked up four victories.
“They’ve both done well so far and we’re really happy with how they’ve played,” Dryka said.
“Our defensive play has also improved over the last month or so, which has made things a lot easier for our goalies. They are able to make that first save instead of having to make two or three big saves in a row.”
Following Friday’s contest, the Titans will host the Carrot River Thunder at 2:30 p.m. Sunday before they embark on a five-game road trip ahead of the Christmas break.
“We’ll need to continue to compete here with a full 60-minute effort each night, especially with how close the league is this year,” Dryka said.
“This is a year where anyone can beat anyone and I know from talking to the top-end teams that they are really pleased to see just how competitive the PJHL is at the moment.”