On the surface, all looks good with the defending champion Carnduff Red Devils of the Big Six Hockey League.
The hockey club has a 9-3 record, good for third place in the league standings. But dig a little deeper with their head coach Ed McMillen and you'll find some inconsistencies with his group, and maybe even shades of a championship hangover.
"It almost feels like a hangover type of thing going on," said McMillen. "I think we're still finding our way...some of the guys are still getting into shape and haven't played a lot of hockey and we're hoping after the Christmas break we can get guys back in shape and get a good push into the playoffs."
"I guess from our end, it's been kind of inconsistent from our team standpoint," he continued. "We started off pretty strong and things kind of went our way for the first three or four games. After that, we came up against some tougher teams. I think we had some decent games, but we've got some things to work on."
When asked what specific areas he'd like to see improve, McMillen said it boils down to consistency.
"Just a more consistent effort...we haven't played a 60-minute game I don't think all year. So that's what we need to improve on."
A lot of McMillen's returning players have been carrying the load offensively. Ben Hiltz leads the way with 23 points, while Nico Anderson and Kyle Garagan each have 18 points. Newcomer Matthew Plews leads the club with 10 goals.
The Red Devils will need that strong core to be at their best down the stretch if they want to repeat as league champions, something McMillen says would be quite the feat.
"I think it would be big, absolutely. I think that's the reason some of the older guys came back for another year, with that goal in mind," he said. "We added some pieces that hopefully can help us get there, we just need to get all on the same page and put together a good stretch run into the playoffs hopefully."