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Ridgebacks fighting to maintain playoff spot

The Ontario Tech men’s hockey team currently sits in seventh with 23 points this season

By Chris Jones/The Oshawa Express

Hockey is a fickle sport, as well known by the Ontario Tech Ridgebacks, who are in a playoff spot despite being one game below .500.

The team has garnered 23 points in 24 games, good enough for seventh in the Eastern Conference of the Ontario University Athletics men’s hockey league.

They currently sit one point behind Queen’s University, and six ahead of Nipissing University.

Head coach Curtis Hodgins says he is feeling pretty satisfied with his team’s play on the ice, but hasn’t necessarily seen the results they’re looking for.

“We’re one game under .500 at 10-11-3 and we have four games to go, but our team’s played well, and we’ve played well since day one,” he says.

He notes the team hasn’t scored enough goals, and that’s been their “Achilles heel.”

“If we can correct that I think good things are in store here,” he says.

One way to correct this according to Hodgins is to improve on their power play, calling it the team’s “number one priority.”

“If we can get [the power play] going, hopefully that will provide us with one extra goal a game, and that’ll make a big difference,” he explains.

He notes the team is still trying to get healthy, as they have a couple of key players out of the lineup due to injury.

“We’re hoping by the time playoffs roll around we can get those guys back because it makes a big difference, especially in terms of our depth,” says Hodgins.

Despite the injuries and the sub-.500 record, Hodgins wants  the team to keep a positive attitude.

“We have great team chemistry and the guys really play team first and we want to keep that going,” he says.

There are a couple of players Hodgins says have “the lion’s share of our points.”

“That’s [forward] Austin Eastman and [forward] Jake Bricknell, and they’ve played together and have pretty good chemistry,” he says.

Eastman has scored eight goals with 13 assists in 24 games this season, while Bricknell has nine goals and 11 assists.

But Hodgins says they aren’t the only two players making a difference.

“We’ve got a lot of unsung guys, that’s kind of the strength of our team, and I’m always a coach that tries to recognize the guys who maybe don’t get all the points, and the guys that are key behind the scenes, blocking shots, and playing good defense,” he says.

He also mentioned captain Alex Yuill on defense, who has 11 points so far from the blue line.

“He’s a fifth year guy, and one of those underrated guys who just does everything well and plays 25 minutes a night for us, and he’s been so key on the back end,” says Hodgins.

Hodgins also noted forwards Josh Maguire (six goals, 12 assists) and Jack Patterson (five goals, eight assists) are two players who make a difference each night.

“Their top end penalty killers, and our penalty kill’s been pretty good this year,” adds Hodgins.

Last but not least, Hodgins gives credit to goaltenders Leif Hertz and Michael Bullion, who have split time in net so far this season.

The Ridgebacks hit the ice again tonight (Jan. 29) for their annual Bell Let’s Talk game against the RMC Paladins at 7:30 p.m. at the Campus Ice Centre.