Photo: Cam Barnes will be the Eagle's starting goalie in 2013-14
Photo Courtesy of Julie Wilson
The 2012-2013 Alberta Junior Hockey League season will go down as a year when the Canmore Eagles made many positive strides both on, and off, the ice.
Although very disappointed with being eliminated in three straight games by the Drumheller Dragons in the first-round of the Southern Division playoffs, the Canmore Eagle franchise improved in almost every department.
On the ice, the Eagles finished their regular season in fifth-place (24-30-6) in the AJHL Southern Division standings with 54 points, significantly better than their eighth-place finish (18-39-3) and 39 points recorded in 2011-2012.
The Eagles also improved their home-ice performance at the Canmore Recreation Centre as they went 16-10-3 and garnered 35 points, an improvement of seven points from their 2011-2012 totals.
From a financial perspective, the 2012-2013 season was also much stronger. Game-day attendance was up by 25% as 13,555 fans came out to cheer on the home-town Eagles, compared to just 10,654 during the 2011-2012 season. Successful fund-raising at all levels including the 50-50 draw, Eagle’s Nest bar sales, Fall Town Party, Christmas Tree sales, Casino sponsorship, and the Annual Award’s Dinner all saw increased revenues during the 2012-2013 season.
“While we are all tremendously disappointed that our playoff run didn’t last longer, the club did make a lot of progress during the 2012-2013 season,” said Canmore Eagle's President Darryl Lockwood. “We made the playoffs, we played six games above .500 on home ice, attendance was up substantially, and our numerous community fund-raising efforts were much more successful. We still have a ways to go to put the team’s finances back in the black, but positive momentum seems to be on our side. I would like to sincerely thank the Bow Valley business community and our many volunteers for their continued support of the hockey club as we couldn’t survive without you. Hopefully we can build on this season’s progress and keep the franchise in Canmore for many years to come.”
For Eagle’s Head Coach and General Manager Andrew Milne, the next few months will be busy as he will have to fill many roster holes and revamp his club for next year’s campaign.
The Eagles will lose three of the team’s top four point getters from the 2012-13 season as forwards Zack Rassell (54 pts.), Riley Point (46 pts.) and Steven Phee (34 pts.) have all graduated. The team will also lose two experienced defenceman with Ciaron Driscoll (211 AJHL games played) and Alex Barnes (209 AJHL games played) also graduating, as is goaltender Ty Swabb (11-10-3, 3.25 GAA , .904 Save %).
“As we head into this spring’s try-out camp, we will be looking to improve our club in several areas,” said Milne of his upcoming camp which runs from April 12-14. “We will certainly be looking for another goaltender, some added scoring punch, and some added size and toughness. We need to get better, so none of our veteran players should take their spot on the Eagle’s roster for granted.”
At a glance, here is how next year’s Canmore Eagle team will shape up.
Every AJHL club is allowed to carry six 20-year-old players on their respective roster. The Eagles currently have eight 20-year-olds on their roster for next season, so something will have to give. The list of 20-year-olds for next season include forwards Nils Moser, Luke Simpson, Austen Hebert, Jeremy Margeson, Bryan Arneson and defenceman Trey Phillips, John Stevens and Mattia Bortolotto.
The goaltending situation looks solid with 19-year-old Cameron Barnes expected back for his third full season in the AJHL. After two seasons of splitting the goaltending duties, Barnes is expected to play the majority of games next season as he works to earn a coveted US College scholarship. During the 2012-2013 season, Barnes was the Eagle goalie of record when they handed the Brooks Bandits – the nation’s #1 ranked team – their first home loss of the season (4-3 on Jan. 11). Barnes also shut-out the visiting Grande Prairie Storm 3-0 on December 19 to put an end to a disastrous mid-season 13 game Eagle winless streak, and also backstopped the team to a string of five consecutive victories from Dec. 19 to Jan 11. As well, Barnes defeated the Okotoks Oilers 3-2 on Feb. 16 to snap a streak of 16 consecutive Eagle losses to the Oilers dating back three seasons.
While the Eagles will miss the experience of both Ciaron Driscoll and Alex Barnes, the 2012-2013 campaign certainly saw the emergence of both Trey Phillips and Johnny Stevens as “up and coming” defensive stalwarts.
The speedy Phillips blossomed offensively registering 3 goals and 29 assists for 32 points – up significantly from 3 goals and 7 assists in 2011-2012.
Stevens, a fierce competitor and inspirational leader, served notice that he will be a force to be reckoned with for the Eagles next season. A shoulder separation late in the 2012-13 season cut short a great break-through season for the gritty Canmore native.
Due to numerous injuries on the backend throughout the season, fellow rear-guards Mattia Bortolotto, Jeremy Gordon, Nikolas Kosman and Ashton McLeod all saw plenty of ice time in 2012-2013 and this added experience should certainly help them all next season.
With three of this year’s top four point getters graduating, the Eagles will be counting on offensive improvement from several returning players to help fill the void.
Luke Simpson will certainly be the go-to guy as he led the Eagles in goals scored in the 2012-13 season with 26, good enough for 10th spot in the AJHL scoring parade. Simpson also added 18 assists for 44 points, a significant improvement from his 15 goals and 12 assists for 27 points in the 2011-2012 season. Had Simpson not hit virtually every goal post in every AJHL arena during the early part of the season, he might have scored 40 goals last season.
The club will also be counting on last year’s rookie forward’s Connor Wilson (23 points), Jordon Revie (20 points), and Alexander Bechtold (11 points in just 24 games) to elevate their game to a higher level for the 2013-2014 season. Bechtold, a physical force at 6’1, 206 lbs, was also the team’s leading point getter in the playoffs with 2 goals and an assist in 3 games.
All three rookies showed flashes of brilliance during their first season in the AJHL and their offensive numbers should improve as they see more ice-time and travel through the league for their second season.
A healthy productive season from veteran forwards Nils Moser (6’1, 210 lbs), who missed 31 games with a broken ankle, and Simon Philp (6’2, 180 lbs), who missed 45 games with hip surgery, could also make a large difference up front for the Eagles.
2013-2014 – THE YEAR OF THE CANMORE CONNECTION?
Canmore fans should be excited as they look forward to next season as six, or perhaps even seven, Canmore boys could all play significant roles for the Eagles.
Nils Moser, Luke Simpson and Johnny Stevens will all be 20-year-olds, while Jeremy Gordon and Simon Philp will be 19, and Kyle Pauls will be 17.
The club is also very interested in Canmore native Roman Melzer who registered 16 points in 30 games as a defenceman for the Notre Dame Argos during the 2012-13 season.