Athletics Kick Off Back to Back
Hythe Mustangs (2-5-0) 5th in West vs Grande Prairie Athletics (9-1-0) 1st in West
The Grande Prairie Athletics will kick off the second of three consecutive weeks of playing back to back games tonight when they host the Hythe Mustangs.
In terms of scheduling the month of December hasn’t been a fun one for Grande Prairie but the team has still managed. Last week the A’s faced a rare mid week back to back scenario thanks in large part to mother nature. The A’s found themselves in Fort St John on December 4th where they would suffer their first loss of the season.
With little time to think they were right back at it the following night in Grande Prairie where they skated away with a win over the Dawson Creek Canucks. Another win over rival Spirit River on Saturday ended the week on a positive.
Just four games remain in the Athletics schedule prior to the annual NPHL Christmas break. Those four games will be highlighted by back to back games next week in Dawson Creek (Thursday) and Fort St. John (Friday).
The first two games kick off tonight as the A’s will welcome the visiting Hythe Mustangs to town. This will be Hythe’s second and final stop in Grande Prairie for the regular season, which could be a blessing as the Coca Cola Centre hasn’t been to kind to the Mustangs over the years.
The Big Story:
Despite winning two of three the past week the Athletics haven’t been great in the month of December. They suffered their first loss of the season last week in Fort St. John before narrowly escaping Dawson Creek the following night. While they won 4 to 2 over Spirit River on Saturday they were outshot 40 to 22 in that game. When you’re first in the league you should always expect the other teams best. Grande Prairie will not want to have a lull in tonights game as keeping a lead in the Western division will be important heading into the break.
Hythe on the other hand hasn’t played a game in the month of December. Their last matchup was an 11 to 5 win over the Lakeland Eagles way back on November 30th. Whether or not all that time off will effect a hungry Hythe team should be evident in the first 10 minutes of tonights game.
The Grande Prairie Athletics continue to generate scoring throughout their lineup. Blaine Bablitz and Adam Boytinck continue to lead the way and should expect Tanner Labbe back on the wing as he returns to the lineup tonight.
Red hot Andrew Buote has been on a roll as of late.
Buote scored twice last Saturday night in the win over Spirt River to push his total to 16, good enough for first on the team as well as the NPHL. In ten games played Buote has 16 goals and 3 helpers.
Special teams should play a pretty big role in tonights matchup.
With the 1st ranked Penalty Kill and 3rd ranked Powerplay the A’s special teams have played a major part in the teams success thus far. At 32% Grande Prairie’s powerplay has scored meaningful goals at all the right times throughout the season and while the success of it has been a nice addition the continued success of the penalty kill (85%) seems to be the bigger story most nights.
On the opposition side the Mustangs sit last in the NPHL with a woeful powerplay. With just 5 goals scored on 43 chances (11.63%) Hythe will be hard pressed to find something against a strong GP penalty kill. On the other side the Hythe Penalty Kill sits in the middle of the NPHL pack with 12 goals surrendered on 48 chances.
Despite 14 points in the standings separating them Grande Prairie shouldn’t expect the Mustangs to roll over. In their past (and only) matchup thus far the Mustangs started strong early scoring first and keeping pace with the A’s for two periods.
Grande Prairie will want to get off to a good start and try to dictate the play tonight. Last game between both clubs had GP chasing early on before they eventually found their legs and took control of the game.
No denying either that these clubs do not get along. Chippy play, stick work and a few fights took place last game and one shouldn’t expect anything different tonight.
Thursday November 14th: Hythe 4 at Grande Prairie 9
Get out of the snow storm and join us tonight at the Coca Cola Centre as the first place Grande Prairie Athletics welcome the Hythe Mustangs. Game time is set for 8:30pm.