The Battlefords AAA Stars are in a rut right now.
They entered Tuesday's game against the Saskatoon Blazers with just one win in their last nine games.
To make matters worse, head coach Norm Johnston and assistant coach Lee Ulmer, plus two key players, were suspended following an incident in an 8-3 loss this past weekend to the Notre Dame Hounds.
Last night, the Stars played their first game without their usual coaching staff and without Adam Beckman, who is fifth in league scoring with 47 points, and without forward Logan Spence.
Despite the uphill battle, the Stars came back from a 2-0 deficit against the Saskatoon Blazers, however, they ultimately fell 3-2 in overtime.
"I thought we worked hard [but] at times we didn't work smart," Stars fill-in head coach Martin Smith said after the game, where the Stars were shorthanded seven times, including four times in the first period alone.
"We turned the puck over a few too many times than what we would have liked to but we never quit. Just got a bad bounce on a couple goals," said Smith.
Blazers leading scorer Blake Allan scored the game-winning-goal 1:25 into overtime after the Stars gave away the puck along the boards in their own zone. The goal, which deflected off a stick right as it was released, was Allan's 26th point of the season.
Smith said it was unfortunate for Stars goaltender Carter Serhyenko, who was strong on Tuesday with 32 saves.
"I felt bad for [Serhyenko]," Smith said. "I thought he played pretty well tonight. Two pucks were deflected out of the three and he kept us in the hockey game."
A missed assignment along the wall is what allowed Allan to cut to the middle and get the shot off that won the game.
The Blazers win pushes them into eighth in the standings, while the Stars remain in 10th, now three points back.
The good news for the Stars is that they managed to tie the game after falling behind 2-0.
Both goals came on the power play, first from defenceman Trey Stocker, and then from forward Damon McKenzie, who now has 15 goals this season.
"I thought the guys didn't quit," Smith said. "They kept battling but things just didn't work out in the end."
Johnston's suspension means he will have to miss the next two games, set for Saturday and Sunday on the road. Smith said they haven't decided whether he will continue to fill in, and added that Ulmer is set to return for Sunday's contest.
Spence has been suspended for at least the next three games, while Beckman's suspension is more fuzzy. The league initially cleared Beckman to play on Tuesday but then called back before the game to say that he couldn't. Smith said the team would know more in the coming days.
The road games for the Stars this weekend see them take on the Notre Dame Argos and then the Notre Dame Hounds.
On Twitter: @NathanKanter11
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