EAGLES 2021-22 SEASON REVIEW- HAPPY TRAIL TO OUR 20 YEAR OLDS
If there is one word that could describe the Eagles”™ 2021-22 season, the franchise”™s 27th, it is “unknown”.
With the team having only played two regular season games in the 2020-21 season, there were many unknowns when training camp kicked off in early September, which posed some big challenges for the coaching staff.
“I would agree that it was certainly a challenge. Coming off the Covid year and with all the uncertainty was a mental strain. With an entire new staff, me not being on the bench with two first year coaches was hard as well. But I couldn”™t be more proud of the players and the way they developed. Everyone was committed to getting better and working towards that. It was great to see at times. With all the challenges we had in front of us I think we handled the season very well” says Eagles Head Coach and General Manager Andrew Milne.
The first challenges the team faced when the puck dropped for the regular season was that only eight players had previously played a full season at the Junior level and they had to play the first 15 games of the season without Coach Milne behind the bench who was serving a 15-game suspension handed by the league. Running the bench for the first 15 games were Assistant Coaches Bryan Arneson and Kyle McLaughlin, who were in their first full season with the team.
In their first 15 games, the Eagles went 6-9, which was not too bad of a start considering all the circumstances. The rest of the season, the Eagles went through some ups and downs. They had their longest winning streak of the season with four in December and early January. Also in the week of January 17-23, the Eagles had their biggest banner week of the season when they defeated the rival Drumheller Dragons, the team that finished second in the South Division, they also defeated the top team in the North Division, the Spruce Grove Saints on the road. For most of the season, the Eagles were in fifth place in the South Division and were battling for home ice advantage with the Okotoks Oilers and the Blackfalds Bulldogs. However in the final month, the Eagles slipped into sixth place, where they finished, as they were leapfrogged by Blackfalds who had a hot finish to their season. The Eagles finished the regular season with a record of 20-31-9 for 49 points, which was not the team”™s best regular season. The biggest challenge all season long for the Eagles was scoring goals. Having graduated players with a high scoring touch like Alex Young and Connor Lyons at the end of 2019-20 season, the Eagles”™ offense had to come by committee. The team”™s leading scorer was Isaac Suppin with 39 points. It was the first time since the 2011-12 season that the Eagles did not have at least one player in the top 20 in league scoring. But thankfully, the Eagles were able to count on a great goalie combo in 19 year-old Andreai Proctor-Ramirez and 18 year-old Matthew Malin. Night in and night out, the duo could always be counted on. Both also received league recognition with Proctor-Ramirez receiving a nomination for goaltender of the year and being named to the South Division All-League Team. Malin was named to the South Division All-Rookie Team.
In the opening round of the playoffs, the Eagles faced a familiar opponent when it comes to playoff hockey, the Camrose Kodiaks. In the last AJHL Playoffs in March 2020, the two teams met in the first round with the Kodiaks winning the series in a decisive game seven in Camrose. This year”™s series also went to a decisive game seven in Camrose, but this time it was the Eagles who had the last laugh, winning the ultimate match by a score of 3-1. In the second round, the Eagles faced a very tall task as they were up against the no. 1 team in the country, the Brooks Bandits. The Bandits have the highest powered offense the league has seen in a long time, having scored 371 goals in the regular season (6.2 goals/game) and had three players with over 100 points. Although the Eagles battled hard, they could not content with the Bandits, especially after a hard fought seven against the Kodiaks.
But overall, making it to the second round for a team that faced so many challenges throughout the season, including key players missing lots of action like Forwards Lane Paddison and Kayden Smith, is satisfying.
“Work beats talent unless talent works is something I always say and I think that was the case this year” says Coach Milne. “Our guys just continued to work despite all they were faced with. It wasn”™t easy at times but they just continued one step at a time”.
So now that the 2021-22 season is the rearview mirror, the Eagles coaching and scouting staff are already looking at building the team for next season. What can Eagles fans expect in 2022-23?
“I really like the mental gains this year along with the experiences we had,” says Coach Milne “I think the group will be stronger next year having gone through that. I feel like we will be able to address some needs this off season to compliment the strengths we already have. I believe we are going to be a very exciting team next season. We have some very strong pieces of the puzzle in place that now have this challenging year behind them to build off”.
The Eagles have already signed a handful of high end players from the Midget AAA ranks, including one that Eagles have already had a chance to have a good look at, forward and Canmore native Owen Jones. Jones suited up for 4 regular season games and 8 playoff games, in which he recorded a goal and two assists.
It”™s going to be a fun team to watch in 2022-2023.
Six Eagles are graduating from the program, all 20 year-olds with 3 forwards and 3 defencemen. The forwards are Lane Paddison, Ethan Schaeffer and Mitchell Watson. The defencemen are Drae Gardiner, Cale Lyons and Zach Cunningham. The Canmore Eagles would like to thank these six for representing this organization and leaving your mark on this town. You will be missed but the Bow Valley surely is proud of the moments and memories you have given us. We wish you all the best as you move on to the next chapter of your lives and look forward to seeing you succeed.