It’s back to work this weekend for the Pembina Valley Hawks who play their first game of 2019 Friday in Morden against the Brandon Wheat Kings.
"I feel like we've had a bit of a change in terms of our buy-in level and our compete level has been pretty consistent here over the last couple of weeks,” said Hawks co-coach Jeff Andrews. “As a coaching staff we're real happy with how we pushed hard right up to the Christmas break and put ourselves in a position where in the second half we're going to have to try and really work to catch some of the teams ahead of us but with the hard work that we just put in, we created kind of a buffer between us and some of those teams that are chasing us."
Pembina Valley has won six of it’s last nine games and occupy seventh place in the Manitoba AAA Midget Hockey League with a record of 15-10-0-4.
"We're really feeling confident that we can hold that momentum in the second half and catch some of those teams ahead of us,” Andrews said. “We're going to set ourselves up for not only making the playoffs but be in a position of hopefully power. We don't know where we're going to end up but we do know that our special teams through the first part of the league have been near the top in both power play and the penalty kill which is encouraging for us."
The Hawks, who have scored two goals or less in 10 games this season, found the back of the net 21 times in their final four games before the start of the Christmas break.
"We're super happy with the offense and it stems from our guys just being willing to shot a puck when they get into great spots to shoot pucks and we're going hard to the net,” noted Andrews. “We're doing a lot of those little things correctly that allow us to be offensively sound. We're seeing guys work hard to get into good areas to shot pucks and when we get there, we're not trying the extra move. We're just getting the puck on net and that's been a big part of our success."
Andrews believes this Hawks team has the capability of making a run up the standings during these next two months.
"We have a lot of new guys and it's taken us a little bit of time to find our comfort level and put guys in positions where they're starting to feel a little more comfortable. We're getting a lot of buy-in from everybody and as a result our structure and how we operate in all three zones - I think teams are starting to recognize that we have pretty good buy-in from our guys and we're going to A go out and compete; B we're going to be structured and C we're going to give you a pretty good game. We're thrilled as coaches that we've have got ourselves into his position and credit to the guys for doing the little things required to help our team be successful."