It’s back to work this weekend for the Eastman Selects who play their first game of 2019 Friday at the Sun Gro Centre in Beausejour against the Winnipeg Bruins.
The Selects said good-bye to 2018 with a pair of home games at the Sun Gro Centre just before the start of the Christmas break.
Matthew Boonstra scored twice and Justin Powers made 36 saves as Eastman defeated the defending Manitoba AAA Midget Hockey League champion Winnipeg Wild 4-2 on December 21st.
"It's very nice to see that we match up well and we play to the level of those teams,” said Selects head coach Scott Wong on their win over the Wild. “Emotions run high, physically and mentally, and it takes a lot out of our guys playing those teams like that. Maybe that's a bit of a learning curve that they need to go through as we go one through the year. There's still a lot of work to do both on and off the ice. It's a process."
24 hours later Eastman saw it’s four-game winning streak come to an end with a 5-3 home ice loss to the ninth place Kenora Thistles.
"They worked harder than we did,” explained coach Wong. “They came, they wanted it and they took it. We showed signs in the third period. We battled back extremely hard and scored two goals to tie the game up and we let it slip away after that again."
Wong wasn't too disappointed to head into the holiday break with a loss.
"It's good to be grounded. It doesn't matter who you're playing against, on any given night, it you're not prepared to play mentally or physically - this is what happens."
The Selects, who lost five of their first eight games, hold down fourth place with a record of 20-9-0-2.
"We started the year off struggling,” said the Eastman bench boss. “The boys, as the season has gone on, bought in and they get along really well. As a team we're very close. Things just started to turn around slowly and this is where we are."
The Selects have 17 games left in the regular season schedule, 11 of which are on the road.
"I think we're starting to mature as a team as the season has gone on,” said Wong. “I think in 2019 they'll start to understand and grasp what it takes to play those back-to-back games. We've been fine so far so I don't expect it to change very much."