As new Neepawa Natives head coach Dwayne Kirkup puts it, any coach's ideal start would be a perfect 5-0 record after the month of October.
But he's not concerned with his team's 1-3-1 start either, especially considering the efforts he's seen out of his players in the club's last two losses.
"There's a new coach, and there's an adjustment period for that, but I think we've made some progress," Kirkup said. "I think we have a strong nucleus. And I think our record is 'unjust' for how we played the last two losses."
After starting the season with back-to-back losses to the perennial powers from Portage, the Natives lost to Steinbach 5-2 in a game that could have easily gone the other way.
Neepawa rebounded to grab a well-deserved first win of the season Friday, but again found itself on the wrong end of the scoresheet Sunday night in a shootout loss that could have 'justly' been a win for Neepawa.
In both losses, the Natives created scoring chances, but couldn't find the finishing touch. For Kirkup, that's a problem that creates optimism for future games.
"I think it's a good sign, we're getting opportunities. We're trying to get into the mindset of aiming to score with every shot we put on net," Kirkup explained. "We also need to establish more of a forecheck and sustain pressure in the opponent's end.
Another of the team's challenges has been converting on the powerplay.
Neepawa has started the year scoring only 5 goals on 50 powerplay opportunities - including several 5-on-3 advantages that went without reward.
"If our powerplay conversion jumps up, I think we've won a couple more games," Kirkup noted.
The Natives other special teams unit has seen a bit more success so far.
After posting the league's second-worst penalty kill last year at 75.65 per cent, Kirkup's team has put together a 89.19 per cent penalty kill per centage to begin the 2013-14 season.
The team is also conceding less goals per game, after allowing a league-worst average of 4.9 goals against last year. The average after five games this year is 4.1 and improving - the team allowed only 8 goals in its past three games combined
A lot of that has to do with the players buying into coach Kirkup's low-risk, low-scoring approach to the game. Although the presence of some off-season changes have also helped.
"Our goaltending has really done well, there's some strength there," Kirkup said. "And we really beefed up our defensive group for this year."
In any case, if coach Kirkup has his way - and by all accounts, that's likely to happen - fans should expect the Natives to continue to play competitive games, and pull out some exciting results as they shoot for an appearance in the MJHL's playoffs this season.
"It's not easy to win in this league. There's a lot of parody," Kirkup said. "But I think we're on the right track."