Coming up to the midpoint of the season, the Anchorage Igloos expected to be comfortably anchored in a playoff spot. After a dreadful start to the season, the Igloos got onto their usual hot streak, and expected to keep the positive momentum rolling right into another Western Division title. But over the last three weeks, Anchorage has gone into a slump, winning only 2 of their last 11 games. Now, at the All-Star break, the Igloos are just barely above the .500 mark. If the season ended today, they would miss the postseason for the first time since 2016.
“Obviously, we’re not playing up to our expectations right now,” said Igloos coach Sam Castor. “There are definitely some areas of our game that we need to tighten up.”
Over the last week and a half, the Western clubs have traveled to the East for the first time this season. The road trip has been a fiasco for Anchorage. It began well enough, with a 3-1 win over Boston. But they haven’t won since. Their next four games were each agonizing one-goal losses. They managed to salvage a point on Saturday by tying Quebec 2-2, but in the process, they blew a two-goal lead in the third period.
“I feel like we’re getting some good looks, but we’re not getting the puck luck,” said LW Les Collins. “It’s frustrating.”
The numbers back up Collins’ statement. They’re continuing to generate as many shots as usual, but their shooting percentage has plummeted during their recent slump. Before they hit their current skid, Anchorage was converting over 10% of their shots; in the last two weeks, they’ve managed to score on just 6.3% of them. They had been averaging 4 goals per game; it’s been almost two weeks since they’ve scored that many in a game.
Their shooting drought has been paired with a smaller but significant dip on defense; together, it adds up to their current 2-6-3 slide.
One of the chief culprits of the team’s shooting woes, C Jake Frost, has been mired in a season-long slump. Thus far, he has only 11 goals on the season, just over half as many as he had at this point last season. Not coincidentally, his shooting percentage for the year is only 9.3%, about half his normal rate. He has fewer goals than second-line center Tom Hoffman, who arrived in Anchorage as a reclamation project in the offseason.
“I don’t know what the problem is,” said Frost. “I know defenses overload on me a lot, but they always have. I’m glad that we’ve got other guys who can carry the load, but I can’t help but feel responsible for the way we’re struggling right now.”
Overall, though, the Igloos don’t seem alarmed about their current predicament. “We’re not going to hit the panic button because we’re one point out of a playoff spot at the halfway point,” said Castor. “We’ve got a battle-tested group here, and we’ve overcome tough times before. We just have to get back to playing the way we know how.”
But the young and frisky Shockers, powered by the off-kilter of their “Ministry of Fun,” don’t intend to make it easy on the Igloos. The second half is shaping up to be an epic battle.