The first-year Dawson Creek Rage didn’t receive the warmest of welcomes when it arrived in the U.S. for its first divisional road series two weeks ago, losing three straight to the Alaska Avalanche.
But the British Columbia-based Rage settled into its unfamiliar surroundings last weekend, knocking off the Kenai River Brown Bears three straight games.
“That sweep gave us some real positives to build on,” said Rage head coach Scott Robinson, whose team improved to 6-9-1 on the season. “We did some learning on the little things it takes to be successful as at team.”
The wins, coupled with a pair of Fresno Monsters losses to the Wenatchee Wild, elevated the Rage out the West Division cellar into fifth place.
Not all bad for an organization - the NAHL’s only to call Canada home - that wasn’t sure what it was up against, competitively, coming into the season.
“We’d rather be 16-0, but the reality is we went into this with our eyes wide open not really knowing what to expect,” said Robinson, whose team continues its road swing with a pair of games in Fresno on Oct. 29-30.
“I like our team’s coachability and their potential because of that quality,” he added. “Our foundation is good as long as we continue to improve - that’s the main focus.”
One player seemingly adjusting with ease is forward Nolan Rossiter. The 19-year-old forward from Edmonton struck for a pair of goals and three assists against Kenai River and leads the team in scoring with 12 points on five goals.
“Nolan has good quickness,” said Robinson. “He has the ability to make a real sharp play, offensively, whether it’s a shot or a smart pass.”
Robinson also praised the efforts of his goaltending tandem of Andrew Walsh, 19, and Edward Dyson, 18, both of whom have stood tall between the pipes night in and night out.
“They’ve kept us in every game and have really helped get our feet under us, defensively,” said the coach.
As for Robinson, he admits his task of head coach has been a challenge, from getting a handle on team’s day-to-day operations to adapting to USA Hockey’s rules to figuring out what’s effective on the ice.
He’s quick to credit the Rage’s management team, in particular Kirk Fynn, Ryan MacIvor and Barry Reynard, for helping get the team off the ground and where it is today.
“These gentleman have worked tirelessly on behalf of the Rage,” he lauded. “We’d be nowhere without them.”
The team’s assistant coaches - Matt Hughes, Jesse Shiels and Andrew Wautier - have also brought plenty of positive energy to the mix.
“They’re all great contributors to what we can offer these kids each day,” said Robinson. “It’s fun to be at the rink and that spills over to the players.”
WEST DIVISION NOTEBOOK
ALASKA AVALANCHE: The Avalanche, which celebrated three wins over Dawson Creek Oct. 7-9, will head to Fairbanks for a pair of games against the Ice Dogs on Friday and Saturday.
FAIRBANKS ICE DOGS: With last weekend off, the division-leading Ice Dogs will host Alaska for a pair of games on Friday and Saturday. Forward J.T. Osborn has points in all 12 games this season.
FRESNO MONSTERS: After playing their first 12 games away from Selland Arena, the Monsters will open their home schedule with a two-game series against Wenatchee on Friday and Saturday.
KENAI RIVER BROWN BEARS: Erick Ware, a 20-year-old from Huntsville, Ala., connected for his first two goals of the season in the Brown Bears’ 5-4 loss to Dawson Creek on Thursday. The defenseman was acquired in a trade with Texas earlier in the year.
WENATCHEE WILD: Shawn Pauly, 18, connected for a goal and four assists in the Wild’s two-game sweep over Fresno last weekend. The forward from Bellingham, Wash., is averaging a point a game (nine).