Although they’d reject it in a heartbeat, the Rimbey Rock of the Heritage Junior B Hockey League can be excused for a horrendous month of November in which they lost all eight games they played.
But then again, hockey teams throughout the world, including those in the professional ranks, have been plagued by the flu and the Rock is certainly no exception.
Luckily, November is gone and things are already looking up for the local squad.
“There’s been steady improvement throughout the season here, but we had a very tough November. Even though we didn’t get the results we wanted, the team was improving throughout the month and we’re looking forward to much better things this month,” said head coach Dean Norstrom.
“November was such a bad month for us with the flu. For the most part, it decimated us. We were going to games six or seven players short of our roster just because we had so many guys out with the flu,” he added. “Now we’re starting to be a little more consistent on who is showing up game-wise and the players are starting to identify and get comfortable playing with each other, so things are much better.”
Prior to this past weekend’s play, the Rock held down fourth place in the league’s Northern Division, three points behind the Stettler Lightning and four points ahead of the Ponoka Stampeders, with hopes of moving up in the standings.
“That’s our goal for sure now. Our first goal was to make the playoffs but now that we’re only three points behind Stettler, our goal is to catch them for third place,” Norstrom said. We’re four ahead of Ponoka now but we want to look forward to Stettler and not back.”
The Rock moved to within striking distance of third place following a Dec. 8 6-4 victory in Stettler based for the most part, on some stellar goaltending.
“We’ve had some players interchanging over the last month and brought in two new goaltenders that I think we’ll be going with for the rest of the season,” Norstrom said. “The newest goalie we’ve brought in is Joel Richard who got us the win against Stettler and our other goalie is Aaron Shukin, so I think we’re going to be pretty solid going forward.”
The Rock are also hope hear some good news from the Drayton Valley Thunder of the Alberta Junior Hockey League through an affiliation agreement. That arrangement has already seen one goaltender sent to Rimbey, however according to Norstrom, things simply didn’t work out in that case but the coach is remaining optimistic.
“We still have basically until Jan. 10 to get some help from Drayton Valley if some of their players feel like coming to Rimbey, so we might see some benefit from that arrangement yet,” Norstrom said. “We’ve had steady improvement throughout the whole season so we’re looking for good things in December and into the new year.”
Due to the extreme cold that hit central Alberta recently, the Dec. 4 home game against the Red Deer Vipers was postponed as the Rock encouraged fans to bring non-perishable food items to be donated to the Rimbey Food Bank. The team however is considering changing the food drive until their next home game, and final one of 2009, on Dec. 19 against the Medicine Hat Cubs.
Between now and then the Rock will travel to Banff on Dec. 13 to face the Academy Bears and to Ponoka on Dec. 16.
The team will kick off their home schedule in the new year on Jan. 3 against the Three Hill Thrashers with the puck dropping at 6 p.m. Following that they’ll take an extended road trip and won’t return home until Jan. 24 when they host the Blackfalds Ford Wranglers, also beginning at 6 p.m.