Battle for playoff positioning intensifies

Battle for playoff positioning intensifies

A three-way tie for sixth place in the Alberta Junior Hockey League between the Canmore Eagles, Grande Prairie Storm and Camrose Kodiaks will be decided in the final week of the regular season.

Heading into the final week, all three teams are tied with 51 points. At stake is a play-in date with the 11th place Olds Grizzlys, while finishing seventh or eighth means play-in dates with the Fort McMurray Oil Barons or Drayton Valley Thunder.

Canmore holds the tie breaker based on regulation time wins. The Eagles 24th win of the season came Friday (Feb. 23), a 3-0 win over the Grizzlies. It was a perfect debut performance for goaltender Hudson Sedo, who was called up to be the emergency starter for this game in Olds from the U18AAA St. Albert Raiders. The 17-year-old had seen time on the bench this season with the Sherwood Park Crusaders and the Brooks Bandits when they were part of the AJHL but did not see the ice. He went all 60 minutes in Olds, with Eagles regulars Matthew Malin and Matthew Keiper both sidelined by injury, making 14 saves.

Owen Jones scored twice, giving him 14 goals on the season, sandwiching Tyler Loughman’s 21st as Canmore took a 1-0 lead in the first period and added two more goals in the third period.

Canmore recorded 38 shots on OIds netminder Aidan Comeau.

On the power play, the Eagles were 1-for-2 while the Grizzlys went 0-for-4.

Canmore, at 24-28-2-1, has two games remaining in its season with its final home game on Tuesday, Feb. 23 against the Calgary Canucks. A victory would assure the Eagles would finish no worse than seventh place depending on how Grande Prairie, 22-25-4-3, fares over its their final three games.

Canmore finishes up the season in Camrose on Friday, Feb. 25. It is the Kodiaks’ next and final game of the season. To finish sixth, the Kodiaks, 22-27-0-7, would need Canmore to gain no more than a single point against the Canucks and defeat the Eagles while hoping the Storm stumble mightily.

Grande Prairie is the team that controls its own destiny. After sweeping both games of a double header on home ice with the Drumheller Dragons (3-1 win on Saturday and 4-2 win on Sunday), the Storm can guarantee sixth place by gaining five points from its final three games: Wednesday, Feb. 28 in Whitecourt, and Friday, March 1 and Saturday, March 2 on home ice against Fort McMurray.

In the battle for 9th place, the Oil Barons, 17-32-3-3, have two games remaining and are two points up on the Thunder, 18-33-2-0, who have four games left to play.

The only sure thing right now is that the Whitecourt Wolverines have clinched top spot with a record of 31-17-4-1 for 67 points. The Wolverines have four regular season games remaining. Places second through fifth are still to be determined with the Bonnyville Pontiacs (29-22-4-0, 62 points), Lloydminster Bobcats (31-24-0-0, 62 points), Calgary Canucks (28-23-1-2, 59 points) in the mix, while Drumheller (26-23-5-3, 60 points) finished up their regular season and will finish either fourth or fifth depending on the fortunes of the Canucks over their final three games.

When the regular season concludes, the sixth through 11th place teams will compete in three best-of-five series to determine who will join the league’s top five teams in the playoffs. Canmore will host the opening two games of their play-in series on Thursday, March 8 and Friday, March 9, with the series switching to the opposition’s arena for Sunday, March 11, and if necessary on Monday, March 12. A fifth game, again if necessary, will be at the Canmore Recreation Centre on Wednesday, March 13.

It’s going to take until the final buzzer on the final game of the regular season though to sort out the matchups.