The Spruce Grove Saints have been rolling lately.
They picked up their seventh win in a row with a 4-3 comeback effort over the Grande Prairie Storm on Sunday to improve to 23-5-0 on the Alberta Junior Hockey League Season. Grande Prairie took a 3-1 lead in the third but the Saints responded to force overtime before Ryan Conroy ended it for Spruce Grove.
The dagger was Spruce Grove’s 28th goal in the past four games, after 11-1 and 9-1 drubbings of the Olds Grizzlys and Fort McMurray Oil Barons.
“We started slow in Calgary, but we got a win there and then things started to click against Olds and Fort McMurray. We started to find some offence as a team,” said head coach Bram Stephen. “Against Fort McMurray we played well for two periods but the third is tough when you come out up 9-0. Unfortunately we started Sunday the way we finished friday and we had to recover.”
Conroy and Johnathon Assayag, who came over from the Oil Barons in a trade earlier this month, have wasted little time making an impact on the roster.
In addition to his overtime winner, Conroy has picked up six assists for seven points in five games with the Saints. Assayag has been nearly as productive, picking up two goals and two assists in five games, including one against his old club on Friday.
“Ryan is a guy that can basically quarterback the back end, and he brings a lot of leadership ability. He’s physical and he’s tough out there and has a lot of skill. That was a big pickup,’ said Stephen. “Jonny has a real good shot, his puck skills are really good, and he’s a good kid that wants to learn.”
The six-foot-two native of Montreal Que comes to the Saints after putting up five goals and six assists for 11 points in 20 games with the Oil Barons. He spent last season with Phillips Academy Andover in the United States High School Prep League.
Both of the recent additions said the transition has been seamless, and this is evidenced in the way Stephen describes their already evident leadership skills.
“The team is great and the town is really great. It’s really nice that it’s close to Edmonton. Being from Montreal it’s a little different going to a place like Fort McMurray,” said Assayag. “Me being new here there’s a lot to pick up on but guys make it really easy for us to adjust. The whole thing about buying in is real and when this team buys in it works like a charm every game.”
The Saints will look to get out of the gate in their next contest against Grande Prairie the same way they finished the last game. They take on the Storm in a back-to-back Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m.. With four points up for grabs in the North Division, and the added motivation of sitting only two points back of first in the division, the Saints know the importance of playing their game in Grande Prairie.
“A lot of getting off to a better start just begins with the details in practice and getting back to what we do well. As a group I think having that ‘A’ carry over from practice and ‘B’ be sustainable for 120 minutes, that is really important,” said Stephen.