The Greater Vancouver Canadians look like contenders again the B.C. Major Midget Hockey League and that comes as a big relief to Leland Mack.
After watching his team go through one of its worst stretches in franchise history, the Canadians head coach is sleeping better these days thanks to a four consecutive victories, including a weekend sweep of the Vancouver Northeast Chiefs.
The B.C. Major Midget Hockey League club doubled the Chiefs 4-2 on Saturday in Coquitlam, then returned home on Sunday and skated to an impressive 5-1 victory. The results moved the Canadians (16-10-6) into sole possession of third place with eight games remaining. More importantly, a dark cloud that seemed to be hovering over the franchise for nearly a month has given way to a bright outlook.
"Everyone seemed pretty uptight there for a while, including me and all the coaches," said Mack, outside a jubilant dressing room. "Our problems seemed to be everywhere. It was our goaltending, defence and we weren't scoring. We were still working hard so it wasn't that."
Mack tried to send a stern message by bag skating his team prior to a series against the last place Kootenay Ice. The potential wakeup call backfired when the Ice took three of four points, but Mack noticed a different mindset when the players returned to practice the following week.
"They just seemed to be in a light mood like everything was going to be fine," he recalled.
The Canadians proceeded to win a pair of games against South Island, then backed that up with more success this past weekend.
Now they will truly see if they have turned the corner with a pair of games against the league-leading and defending provincial champion Vancouver Northwest Giants, including Sunday's tilt in Ladner (11: 30 a.m.).
"The frustrating part was (that slump) came against the bottom teams in the league," added Mack. "We know that won't happen when they play the teams we are battling with so we are pretty much in playoff mode for the rest of the season.
"The Giants have pretty much clinched first and will be a big challenge. If you want to win the league then they are the team you are going to have to get through."
Mack was not only happy with the wins but the balanced attack in both games.
Much of the scoring load has been carried by 15-year-old former Seafair standout Tyler Sandhu who is enjoying an outstanding rookie campaign with 41 points in 30 games, including 18 goals. The Portland Winterhawks prospect sits 10th in league scoring and his point total is at least double the output of nine forwards on the Canadians roster.
The Grade 10 student at McRoberts secondary is pleased to see his hard work over the summer is paying off but is even more happy his team is back on track.
"It's a great feeling right now," he said. "We are understanding each other better and coming together as a team. We are just working hard for each other and treating every game like it's the playoffs."
A relatively quiet weekend for Sandhu still resulted in three assists.
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