Red Deer Vipers head coach J.D. Morrical wasted no time in sending a message to his team.
Following their 10-3 Heritage Junior B Hockey League exhibition loss to the rival Blackfalds Wranglers on Saturday at the Red Deer Arena, he sent the entire team back out on the ice for a 20-minute bag skate.
They got down 3-0 early in the second period and shrunk away completely.
After a suffering through a year of dysfunction, Morrical was not about to let those issues rear their ugly head again.
“It needed to be done. The effort level wasn’t there,” said Morrical. “We have an amazing hockey team, everyone we’ve got is a great hockey player, it’s just the effort level wasn’t there and if we play like that we’re going to get beat 10-3 every single time.”
Consider the message received.
“We have to come together as a team,” said captain Justin Corbett after the skate. “Last year we had a pretty rough one, we weren’t exactly a team, so we’re just trying to build on that and make sure everyone is supporting each other.”
Wally Samson led the Wranglers with four goals and three assists while Garrett Glasman, Jaye Sutherland and Robin Carlson all had two goals each. Kyle Baumgardner made 33 saves in the win.
Mitch Morrison, Brett Hoppus and Adam Ferguson replied for Red Deer while Conner Zenchuk let in eight goals on 41 shots before getting replaced by incumbent Klay Munro who allowed two goals on seven shots.
The game was still just the Vipers’ first loss of the pre-season.
Blackfalds scored twice in the first period while out shooting the Vipers 25-10, but the game did not get out of hand until early in the second period, thanks to a pair of double minors taken by Red Deer in the final couple minutes of the opening frame. Samson scored 20 seconds into the middle stanza, and it was all down hill after that.
“That’s something we wanted to beat out of them tonight, that when we get down the game’s not over, we still had 40 minutes left and we were only down by three (goals) and we just gave up,” said Morrical.
“It was embarrassing, they all said they’re embarrassed, and I hope it doesn’t happen again.”
The Vipers did manage to get on the scoreboard in the third period as they put three past Baumgardner, but the Wranglers scored five of their own goals to make sure the score didn’t get too close.
“It was good to see, but at the same time it was after a time out I called to get them going like that, we shouldn’t have to motivate them like that,” said Morrical. “They’re 21, 20, 19-year-old kids, they should be motivated when they come to the rink.”
The two teams will meet again on Tuesday in their final exhibition game of the season, this time in Blackfalds at 7:30 p.m.
“Hopefully we can return the favour,” said Corbett.