It wasnât the kind of news the Prince Albert Icehawks wanted to hear.
Mired in the basement of the Prairie Junior Hockey Leagueâs North Division with a 5-15-3 record, one of their leading scorers, Mitch Corfmat, has decided to pack it in and call it a career.
The 19-year-old forward was in his third season with the Icehawks and in 14 games this year had six goals and 10 assists.
âItâs a big hole to fill,â admitted Icehawksâ head coach Kim Dryka as he prepared his team for a pivotal contest against the Saskatoon Westleys tonight at 7:30 p.m. at the Kinsmen Arena. âThe boys are going to have to dig deeper and some are going to have to step up.â
Already saddled with the departure of the clubâs lone overage player, Eddie Gauthier, earlier in the year, the absence of Corfmat makes the Icehawks that much younger.
With as many as a dozen rookies in the line-up, the Icehawks have struggled to hit the win column, but surprisingly, the playoffs are not out of reach just yet.
âThe boys are staying pretty positive with what weâve got,â says Dryka. âWeâre only about 10 points out of a playoff spot and we have some games in hand.â
âWeâve been close in most games,â added Dryka. âOf course there have been some blowouts, but we have to turn things around early (in the second half.)â
Tonightâs opponent, the Westleys, currently hold down the final playoff berth in the North Division and Prince Albert trails them by 13 points. They do have four games in hand so a win tonight is mandatory for the Icehawks to begin a push to overtake their Saskatoon rivals.
The Icehawks and Westleys have met twice this year with each club winning once by a large margin. There will still be another pair of head-to-head tilts â both in Saskatoon â after tonight so there is still a glimmer of hope for the Icehawks, but tonightâs game is crucial.
With Corfmatâs departure, the Icehawksâ offence is now in the hands of a pair of first-year players as Brett Boyer leads the team in scoring with 18 goals and 11 assists while Lucas Anseth is next with 9-11-20 totals.
Dryka said a few new players were to be skating with the team this week, but no decision has been made on whether additional roster spots will be filled.
After having just over two weeks away from the game, the Icehawks have a busy week to get back into the swing of things. The Traveland RV Storm are at the Kinsmen Arena on Friday at 7:30 p.m. and then Prince Albert travels to Delisle on Saturday to face the Chiefs. The Tri-Town Thunder complete the busy stretch with a visit to Prince Albert next Tuesday.