The theory often goes that young junior hockey teams get better and better as the season progresses.
So when the Halifax Mooseheads ended a rebuilding year mired in the longest losing streak of the season — a miserable 13 games — it stands to reason there might be a little bit of concern.
Not so, says head coach and general manager Cam Russell.
“For me and my coaching staff and ownership … Everybody’s pleased with the progress the players showed,” Russell said.
He says the season unravelled slightly on Feb. 27 when the Mooseheads blew a 3-1 lead at home by allowing three third-period goals to the Moncton Wildcats in a 4-3 loss that cost them their last remaining hope at a playoff spot.
The final six games were played on the road because of the Tim Hortons Brier and a last-place finish had already been secured.
“The games after that, it was difficult to find motivation,” Russell said. “It was discouraging and disappointing, realizing it was over.”
Russell was most impressed with his group of 17-year-olds that includes Carl Gelinas, Gabriel Desjardins, Alex Lemieux, Steve Gillard, Konrad Abeltshauser and Sawyer Hannay, as well as 18-year-old goaltender Mathieu Corbeil and 16-year-olds Brent Andrews and Jamie Bishop.
Those players form the nucleus of what the Mooseheads hope will be a Memorial Cup host — or at least a contender — in 2011-12.
“They had an opportunity to play and play lots to get some much-needed mileage,” Russell said.
“We need those young guys to turn into good players next year and the year after and we don’t want to put ourselves in this (total rebuilding) situation ever again.”