The Avon River Rats will be looking to stay out of the penalty box when they return to the ice in January.
"We have a good group of individual hockey players with areas that we can still improve upon, but, more importantly, we simply have to stop taking so many needless and foolish penalties,” said Grant Veinot, the Avon River Rats head coach, in an interview before the Christmas break.
During the River Rats’ final game prior to Christmas, which was held in Truro on Dec. 20, the team took penalty after penalty in the first period before they settled down. Next to no penalties were called on them in the final two periods of play, as well as in the five minutes of overtime they played.
The game was decided in the shootout, with the River Rats defeating the Fundy Rhino Renovations 2-1.
The teams exchanged goals in the opening period, with Thomas Malone connecting 6:25 into the game on a pass from Sam Ross for a 1-0 visitors lead. Then, 4:15 later, Fundy scored and the game was tied 1-1.
Veinot said he was “impressed with the steady play of Dylan Lowthers on defense” for the River Rats, as well as with the goaltending of Matt MacMinn, who turned away 46 of 47 shots he faced.
The River Rats are now 7-13 on the season, with Fundy eight points ahead of them in fourth place in the Nova Scotia Junior C Hockey League standings.
When asked if Veinot was confident that the River Rats could play more than one playoff round come February, he said he felt it was possible.
"I am only basing my observations on one game with Fundy but if we get the goaltending that was demonstrated Friday night, I certainly feel we have the skill and desire to get past the opening round of the playoffs,” said Veinot.
To start 2014, the River Rats are slated to travel to Liverpool for a game against the South Shore Wild Friday, Jan. 3.