Barker shows bite in Huskies tough home loss

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It was the perfect road start for the Wolves, a team Fort St. John had played twice entering Saturday night’s tilt and had yet to suffer a loss to this season. Well, the Wolves made it difficult for the Huskies in the first, scoring two unanswered goals in the opening frame, both of which coming on the power play.

Following the first period, the intensity of the game took a time out, as the North Peace Hockey League Commissioner Bob Trobak, was honoured on the ice for his decade long service to the NWJHL, while also paying homage to his 25 years of coaching within minor hockey.

Trobak’s coaching skills can be seen regularly at the North Peace Arena, as the Commissioner had previously coached Huskies such as John Apsassin, Blair Karasiuk, Daylen Pearson and Dayne Pedersen.

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Following the reception of his award, Trobak, with a smile on his face, humbly shared his thoughts on receiving the NWJHL President’s Award.

“It’s an honour for sure. I just did something that I love doing, so it’s tough to be recognized for. If you’re doing something you enjoy, it’s not like you do it for the big bucks.”

Trobak also gave thanks to league president Al Spence, who he said constantly supported Trobak’s decisions throughout his commissioning career, something he said that made the task a whole lot more enjoyable. He also gave thanks to his wife and family for their constant support.

The second was a different story for Fort St. John, who worked hard in the period to cut the deficit in half. At the 12:13 marker of the middle frame, the Huskies power play went to work, executing some top-notch puck movement, causing confusion among the Wolves defence. A nice cross-ice pass from Shawn Holliday helped the puck find the stick of Owen Barker, who was making his Fort St. John Huskies debut Saturday evening.

Barker showed the fans and his fellow team mates some of his tools of the trade, by quickly releasing a hard wrist shot short-side, high glove for the pups first goal of the game, cutting the lead to 2-1.

With the lead cut to just one, the intensity kicked up a few notches at the North Peace Arena, which boiled over before the conclusion of the second, when a dump-in play into the Wolves zone, resulted in a quick but intense fight between Shawn Holliday and Deon Rathbone.

The third period was an emotional rollercoaster for everyone involved in Saturday’s game. The period began with Fort St. John evening the score just 1:22 in. An errant pass by Wolves’ goaltender Curtis Malbeauf, landed right on the tape of a hard forechecking Brighton Campbell, who made Malbeauf pay for his mistake by quickly firing the puck in the net while the pups were short handed.

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Campbell’s goal seemed to open the offensive floodgates, as Slave Lake responded 9:55 into the final frame. Following some tough offense by the Wolves, the Huskies were unable to clear the puck from in front of goaltender Travis McLean, and Slave Lake eventually made them pay, whacking a puck past McLean for the 3-2 lead.

However, once again Owen Barker gave his team mates something to look forward to, as he scored his second of the evening just 39 seconds later, tying the game at 3-3.

Lately, the third period has produced some very disappointing results for the Huskies, and Saturday, that was no different.  

With a little under three minutes left in the frame, Huskies forward Jamie Watson received a hard, high, head hit from behind, causing Watson to hit the boards head first. The play went uncalled, so Watson decided to take matters into his own hands, attacking the Wolves player. The play resulted in a major penalty for Fort St. John, who was unable to escape the man-advantage, as Slave Lake scored with 35 seconds remaining, for the power-play game winner, producing the 4-3 final score.

It was a tough loss for the hometown Huskies, especially goaltender Travis McLean, who made 29 saves on the evening, but was unable to get the win beside his name.

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Following the game, Huskies head coach Gary Alexander talked about the hit on Watson, saying that sometimes players have to keep their emotions in check.

“We had the pressure on, we were controlling the game, it was only a matter of time before we got the goal I think at that point. He got a bad hit yes, and the referee missed the call completely. But late in the game like that with our record we just have to learn how to control that and take one for the team because that cost us, that was the game right there. We’ve being doing that in various instances all year long, we just seem we don’t commit to the team strategy of sticking up for one another by going out and just taking one for the team.”   

On the bright side, the head coach said he liked what he saw in his newest roster addition, saying he did all the little things right in this first Huskies game, which was very “pleasing” to the head coach.

The Huskies will once again have to swallow a tough loss, before they hit the ice again on Friday, November 30, when they take another trip to Fairview to play the Flyers.

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