0-for-January isn’t exactly what Greg Ireland had in mind.
The Owen Sound Attack coach has watched his Ontario Hockey League team ring in the new year with three flat performances and three losses.
And Ireland, for one, has seen enough.
“We’ve got some weeds in our yard and we’ve got to pull them out and get rid of them,” Ireland said on Saturday, interrupting his telephone interview with this reporter to read his charges the riot act on the team bus after a 6-2 loss in Saginaw.
“We seem to be forgetting what makes our team tick and we’re going to get that back RIGHT NOW.”
Owen Sound opened 2013 with a loss to a short-handed Kitchener squad. They followed that up with a better effort in a losing cause in Plymouth on Friday.
“I thought we deserved a better fate (in Plymouth),” said Ireland. “Although we fell behind again early on a couple of fluke goals, I thought we did a lot of good things and that we were pretty darn good.”
But that wasn’t the case in Saturday’s loss in Saginaw.
“I know we’re beating the same drum, but when we play and compete really hard and we work as a team, we are a tough team to play against,” said Ireland. “When we come out and try to play as individuals and play soft and try to do too much individually, we’re not as effective. We’ve played teams with depleted lineups and we haven’t put our best foot forward against them.”
Owen Sound once again fell behind early in Saturday’s game, trailing 2-0 after 20 minutes.
“We need to look in the mirror and examine how we prepare for games as a team,” said Ireland.
“We don’t start them on time. If the game starts at 7 o’clock or (on Saturday) at 7:11, we need to start at 7:11. Not 8:23 and make a little push. Even when we were winning, quite honestly our first periods weren’t good enough through the course of the year, especially at home. We need to address that.”
Keevin Cutting and Gemel Smith scored on Saturday for the Attack (25-11-1-2, second in the Midwest Division).
“We got out-worked and we got out muscled and that’s not a good combination,” said Ireland. “We’re letting bad habits sink in and we’re letting our work ethic drop. We’ve gotten away from being the team that’s effective and hard to play against.”
Justin Kea scored a pair of shorthanded markers while Andrey Alexeev, Eric Locke, Jimmy Lodge and Gregg Sutch added singles for the Spirit (17-19-3-2, fourth in the West).
“We haven’t done that all year,” Ireland said of Saginaw’s shorthanded goals.
“They were pressuring up top and we didn’t move the puck effectively and smoothly. We turned it over or got the shot blocked and away they went.”
Owen Sound starter Brandon Hope stopped 11 of 15 shots before getting the hook early in the second period. Backup Aaron Taylor made 18 saves in relief.
Saginaw’s Nikita Serebryakov stopped 31 shots.
The Attack wraps up their four-game road swing with stops in Erie on Wednesday and at Niagara on Thursday.
Owen Sound returns home to host Kingston on Saturday.
Game time at the Harry Lumley Bayshore Community Centre is 7:30 p.m.
SLAPSHOTS: Jaden Lindo and Jacob Middleton didn’t join the Attack in Saginaw on Saturday after playing for Team Ontario at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge in Victoriaville, Que. ... G Jordan Binnington was set to return to Canada today from the World Junior Hockey Championships in Ufa, Russia. However Team Canada’s flight was cancelled and details have not been released on when the fourth-place Canadian team will return ... The OHL has yet to announce if its trade deadline (Wednesday at noon) will be extended now that the National Hockey League and its players have reached a tentative agreement to end the lockout. Some players on the market such as Niagara’s Ryan Strome (N.Y. Islanders) or Freddie Hamilton (Boston) could end up in the NHL this year.