With six games left to play in the regular season and only one win so far in 2018, The Princeton Posse has some work ahead to ensure a playoff berth.
The home team presently holds the fourth and last playoff spot, but is only five points ahead of North Okanagan in the Okanagan Division.
“I’m not worried,” said coach Mark McNaughton. “I think it’s a tighter race than it has been all year but if we do our part we should be fine.”
The Posse won just one game in January.
“One for nine – it’s an ugly number,” said McNaughton.
It’s a far cry from the beginning of the 2017-2018 season, when the Posse sat briefly at the top of the division. Even when the team slipped behind Summerland and Osoyoos it held fast to a 500 performance.
As of Tuesday the Posse had 36 points – 15 wins, 20 losses and two ties.
McNaughton said the team seemed to lose its focus over the ten day Christmas break.
“After Christmas we just seemed to lose all the structure in the game and the guys were all on their own pages,” he said.
“It’s the most extreme case I’ve seen in a while where guys are really on holidays still when they get back. Usually it’s two or three days and everything is fine. This just felt like it took us a lot longer.”
McNaughton said the team’s dismal post holiday record is not entirely reflective of the level of play.
“In those nine games I think there were four that I felt like were really bad, bad games and we were playing bad hockey…Four others it felt like we certainly played good enough to win. Those games we were back in it and just landed on the wrong side. Those ones count too I guess. We don’t get to do them over, that’s for sure.”
The Posse’s last home game of the season is this Friday against Kamloops, and then the team hits the road for five more contests against some high caliber entries.
“Everybody that we are playing against is playing good hockey…Kamloops, if we are physical and play a good structured game we should be fine. One Hundred Mile House and Revelstoke are both strong teams. If we are on and ready to play physically then I think they’re just fine.”
While North Okanagan is hot on the Posse’s trail McNaughton said that team has “the toughest schedule in our league to finish the season [but] they have been playing better hockey than they were earlier on. They beat Osoyoos recently and they beat Summerland recently.”
McNaughton said the Posse has been focusing on improving the penalty kill, capitalizing on second shots at the net, and finding ways to create turnovers.
“I feel like these are times as a coach you have got to push yourself to grow and more. I hate to call it the fun part of coaching, figuring out how to win again, but it certainly keeps you engaged.”