That’s the operative word early this season for the Monticello/Annandale/ Maple Lake hockey team.
In their opener it was a close loss. Home against Hutchinson saw a close win.
And in general, despite two losses to end last week, Coach Sheldon Weston says they’re close to where they want to be.
After starting the season by giving up two late goals to take a stinging one-goal loss to Sartell, the Moose bounced back against Hutchinson Thursday.
In front of a strong home crowd, the Moose played well early.
They jumped out to a 2-1 first period lead as they used an offensive strategy Weston has been preaching throughout the preseason.
“We stopped in front of the net,” said Weston.
If it sounds simple, it is. But it also makes a huge difference.
When a first period shot went on net, Reese Castens stood nearby. When the puck fell out of the goalie’s glove, Carstens tapped it in, giving MAML the first lead in a back and forth game.
“We were going to the net a lot more,” said Weston. “It makes a big difference. Offensively, to be successful, we absolutely have to do that.”
Defensively, Weston says the Moose still have some work to do.
First, they’re trying to find a goaltender. Austin LeBrun and Darien Jones are fighting for the spot vacated by two-year starter Aaron Boros, who graduated last year.
Even more importantly, they’re still working on marking offensive players. Weston says too often the kids get caught watchinig the puck and someone slips in behind them, leading to easy goals.
Thursday, different defensive issues led to four Hutchinson goals, or one for each of the first four times that the Moose scored.
But the Moose managed to stay one step ahead. Never trailing, the Moose finally took the lead for good on a Colton Jones goal with under three minutes remaining. Jones added an insurance goal with seconds left to help the Moose secure a 6-4 win, their first of the young season.
The offensive prowess of the Moose was impressive, but their mentality to continue fighting back to each Hutchinson score may have been even more impressive.
“You just can’t get too high and you can’t get too low,” said Weston, about playing in a game like that. “You just have to keep the battle going.”
Tuesday night the Moose lost another close battle, falling 4-3 at Northern Lakes.