At the junior A level, Brian Maloney believes one good game can be a switch-flipper for a struggling team.
The Chilliwack Chiefs hockey boss hopes Sunday’s 7-0 regular season finale win over Langley is the spark his team desperately needs heading into the playoffs.
A coach wants his team to be playing its best hockey as the postseason begins, but Maloney’s crew has been doing the opposite, winning just one of their previous 10 games.
“We needed that win desperately, mentally more than anything,” Maloney said. “When they’re this young, they forget what it feels like to be playing well and lately they’ve been eating what it feels like to play poorly.
“At this age, they’re not mentally strong enough to forget about a game and move on. They get in a funk and they’re over-thinking and the sky is falling. It’s negative land and it’s tough getting them out of that.”
The same problems that have plagued the Chiefs all season have been popping up again the last month or so.
Maloney said too many players are trying to be heroes, doing it all on their own instead of playing solid team hockey.
“Every player thinks they can go and win the game by themselves,” the coach noted. “We have thirteen or 14 rookies who could do that with their previous teams, and when things are going bad they revert back to, ‘I’ve got to be the guy. I’ve got to break us out of this funk.
“But when they’re doing that, it’s actually hurting us.”
And the consistency Maloney would like to see at this point in the season is missing.
“There’s still a lack of focus and a tendency to play extremely well for one period and think it’s going to be that easy for the rest of the game.
“Even during this recent funk, it’s not like we’ve been playing poorly the whole time. We’re really dominant for 20 minutes and really terrible for 20 minutes.
“That’s why it was great to see them keeping their foot on the gas pedal against Langley.”
So back to the top, can one lopsided win bring back the Chiefs team that was starting to look like a contender in January?
“You can switch poorly or positively, and the thing at this level is keeping the kids on an even keel,” Maloney said. “Keeping them level and focused is the hardest thing to do when we have such a young team.
“We don’t have a lot of 19 or 20 year olds who can calm things down because they’ve been there.”
What Maloney does have is a group of highly-skilled youngsters, and he hopes they can ‘flip the switch’ when playoffs start this weekend.
“It’s an unknown as we go into the playoffs and we’ll see how they respond,” Maloney said. “Ending the regular season on a high should help, and getting home ice in the first round is good. I’m really interested now to see which of our guys ‘shows up’ in the playoffs.