After a trying first half of the season, the Triple A Estevan Bears hockey team is ready to get back at it in 2022.
The Bears currently sit with a record of 9-16-0-5, four points out of the final playoff spot.
Riley Hengen took over the head coaching duties in November and says he's taking a new approach.
"The thing that I focus on the most is our environment at the rink," Hengen said. "We just had a couple little changes just to get guys to be excited to come to the rink and have a positive attitude. Building success on the ice...it all starts with a mindset. We kind of changed the approach of how we dealt with the guys, and on the ice give them a little bit more freedom to be creative."
Hengen says the focus in the second half is to stay in the playoff hunt and ultimately nab a playoff spot this spring.
"As a team goal for sure, we want to get in to that top eight," he said. "I think it is doable. We're a couple points back right now, but looking ahead I think there are games out there that we should be competitive in, and we just need to find ways to win those games and put ourselves in position to get into the mix."
Those games start this weekend, when the Bears resume action for the first time since the Christmas break with back to back contests against the Battlefords Stars. The team has not played since Dec. 19 due to COVID postponements.
"They've (Battlefords) played a couple times already in the new year, so we need to be prepared for them. We can't afford to come out of the gate slowly. The guys should definitely be excited to get back on the ice. We had 11 straight road games there before the break, and I don't think we've played at home since mid November (Nov. 14), so they'll be excited to get back on home ice that's for sure."
The Bears will be the home team on Saturday, but the game will be played in Radville for Hockey Day in Saskatchewan. They'll host the Stars at Affinity Place on Sunday afternoon for the team's teddy bear toss game.
The Bears online 50/50 will also be live until Feb. 20.