It is a phrase commonly used in sports: Learning how to win.
This is not an empirical, but rather gut-feeling concept. But so far, the Yellowstone Quake has not grasped it.
The North American Tier III junior hockey team lost two tight games last weekend to the Missoula Junior Bruins, contests the players believed they should have won and still have trouble believing they didn’t.
The Quake lost the Frontier Division games in Montana 5-4 in overtime and 3-2.
“It’s very frustrating,” said defenseman Kirwin Johnson, who is from Meeteetse.
Victory has been rare for the 3-12-1 Quake this year and these games seemed not only gettable over 6-9 Missoula, but in reach until the final seconds.
“We have to learn how to win because we know we can,” Johnson said. “We haven’t figured out how to win and stay at that level.”
Yellowstone has been beaten badly by some of the league’s top teams, yet the Cody squad gave first-place Bozeman its only loss.
That recent high point led to the thinking that chances were good to add two more Ws last weekend.
In the first game, defenseman Spencer Platt gave the visitors a 1-0 lead with assists from Jon Green and Ryan Lovelace and it was 2-1 after the first period following a Dylan Rumpke goal (Johnson assisting).
Jack Harris and Johnson scored the other two goals and Rumpke assisted on both of those, as well.
This led to OT, but the Bruins pulled it out with a power play goal after a Quake penalty.
“Five-on-five we’re a good team,” Lovelace said. “We’ve just got to stay out of the box. Our penalty kill just killed us.”
In the replay, Missoula came out stronger, building a 2-0 lead before Harris scored. Rumpke, who also assisted on that goal, added another to tie things at 2-2 before the Bruins pulled it out.
While he personally totaled five points, Rumpke characterized the weekend as “rough. Those two games they just wanted it more. We just need to figure out what we need to change so we’re prepared.”
The Quake hosts Butte, (1-15), the division’s last-place team, this Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at Riley Arena.
The Quake must make a move, Rumpke said.
“We’ve got to start now if we want to make a push into the playoffs.”
Starting quickly, making fewer mistakes that result in penalties, and playing all out for 60 minutes, much as Yellowstone did against Bozeman two weeks ago, is where the players want to be every game.
“It felt like we took a step up when we beat Bozeman,” Lovelace said. “Us losing felt like we stepped down.”