Crag and Canyon: Eagles defence is best weapon against Mustangs

Carson Romeril made the most of his re-introduction into the Canmore Eagles lineup on Tuesday.

The 19-year-old defenceman, who joined Canmore on Nov. 5 scored twice during a three-goal second period as the Eagles defeated the Calgary Mustangs 4-1.

Travis Verveda also scored twice as the Eagles’ defence, despite some enforced lineup changes, stepped up in a big way in this Alberta Junior Hockey League clash played before 137 fans at Father David Bauer Arena in Calgary.

“The D stepped up and played well,” affirmed Jeremy Reich, Eagles assistant GM and coach.

Romeril had been a healthy scratch in each of the past six games.

“He has just put his nose down and worked. He has done everything we ask of him in practice,” said Reich. “He hasn’t played a lot lately and to get back into the lineup on the big ice (in Calgary) that is tough too. He played well. He played efficient. He kept it simple.

“You need guys like that to step up especially when you have so many guys out.”

Romeril’s inclusion in the lineup is a result of the team forced to make three changes on defence for this game.

Adamu Tanaka and Geoffrey Fizet were both forced to the press box with nagging upper body injuries. They are listed as day-to-day.

Also, Jesse Sheen was suspended for two games on Monday for a league-imposed interference major penalty from Friday against the Whitecourt Wolverines. He was not penalized in the game for his hit on Ryley Smith that forced the player out of the game. Sheen played in Saturday’s loss to the Drumheller Dragons meaning will also miss his team’s next game.

The Eagles reached down into midget AAA to call-up 17-year-old Keenan Smith, of the Red Deer Chiefs, to help on defence.

“He held his own … and he also got more comfortable in the third period as he kind of got used to the pace, which for a kid coming out of midget AAA is a lot quicker,” said Reich, who had praise for the entire defensive corps that also included veterans Jarell Pinchuk and Daly Hamilton, and rookie Carter Coles.

“All our guys were good: they skated; played simple; moved the puck more.”

The two goals were Romeril’s first counters in the AJHL and came in his fifth game for Canmore. Last season, he played 11 games for Whitecourt and 34 for the Dauphin Kings, of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League, where he registered one goal.

Verveda now has five goals this season.

Eagles rookie forward Alex Young had three assists and takes over the team scoring lead with 27 points (8 goals – 19 assists) through 28 games.

The Mustangs’ goal came from Joseph Karpyshyn (17 this season). It was the only scoring play of the first period.

Verveda’s first of the game, at 5:43 of the second period, tied the game at 1-1.

Romeril would give Canmore the lead just 31 seconds later, and then made it 3-1 at 16:53.

Verveda put the game out of reach with a power-play goal at 17:21 of the third period.

“Verveda played really well. He made a couple of big blocks when it was 3-1 and then gets rewarded by scoring on the power play,” said Reich. “I guess that happens when you play well and you sacrifice: you get rewarded.”

Canmore outshot the Mustangs 50-25 with Logan Dyck (4-3, 2.56 goals-against average) in goal for the Eagles and Joey May (6-5, 3.21) in goal for the Mustangs.

Dyck has won each of his last three starts.

Canmore has won each of the four meetings between the two teams this season.

They will clash twice more during the regular season.

The Eagles improved to 12-15-1 and are sixth in the South Division, finishing November with three wins from 11 games.

The Calgary Mustangs, at 14-15-2, hold down fourth place, five points up on the Eagles.

Canmore plays seven of its nine December games at the Canmore Recreation Centre. First up is the last-place Camrose Kodiaks (8-13-6) on Friday and Saturday at the Canmore Recreation Centre, 7 p.m.

Reich said the team has to look past the Kodiaks’ overall record when it comes to assessing the challenge this weekend.

“We know we are going to have to battle and make sure we are managing the puck, outbattling them, limiting their opportunities,” he said. “The first game is going to be huge and we have to get out there and grind it out … make sure we are good on Friday, and then on Saturday morning we can go after Saturday night.”

Four of the opening five games in December are against the Kodiaks, with the Eagles only two road games of the month in Camrose on Dec. 8-9.

Sandwiched in the middle of the Canmore-Camrose four-game set is a Tuesday home game against the South-leading Okotoks Oilers (23-2-1 as of today).

EAGLES NEST: Canmore was 1-for-5 on the power play while the Mustangs went 0-for-3 as just eight minor penalties were called in the game. … Also getting the night off for the Eagles were forwards Trevor Van Steinburg and Jake Ashton, both for maintenance reasons. … Edouard Michaud (3G-4A, 3 games), of the Grande Prairie Storm, is the Canalta Hotels AJHL Player of the Week for the week of Nov. 20-26. … Calgary Canucks goaltender Erik Gordon is the Alberta Ford Dealers AJHL Defensive Player of the Week after posting a three-win week. … The Canmore Eagles Christmas tree lot, located at the intersection of Bow Valley Trail and Benchland Trail, is open Tuesdays through Fridays, 4-7 p.m., and Saturdays and Sundays, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. The pricing is $10 per tree plus $10 per foot and the trees also come with two game day tickets valid during the 2017-18 regular season.

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