PHOTO: Drumheller goaltender Jonny Hogue was on the top of his game on Thursday night as the Dragons dropped the Canmore Eagles 4-1 in Game One of their best-of-five playoff series. photo courtesy of Pam Doyle.
STORY COURTESY OF RUSS ULLYOT – POST MEDIA / CRAG AND CANYON
The Canmore Eagles looked like a team playing with a lot of nervous energy as the Alberta Junior Hockey League playoffs opened Thursday night.
Unfortunately, it came against a composed Drumheller Dragons team and the visiting side scored a 4-1 win before 475 fans at the Canmore Recreation Centre as the visiting side took a 1-0 lead in this best-of-five series.
Drumheller goals came from Connor Boyd, Clint Filbrandt, Keaton Holinaty and Trygve Many Guns.
Canmore’s goal came from Adam Tisdale.
Ryan Bontorin was between the pipes for the Eagles and made 23 saves.
Jonny Hogue was in goal for the Dragons and made 28 saves.
The second game of this series is Friday night, 7 p.m. at the Canmore Recreation Centre.
The Eagles entered the series as the fourth-ranked team in the South after going 26-27-7 with the Dragons fifth after a posting a 25-29-6 season record.
Drumheller Head Coach Brian Curran was pleased with the effort put forth by his charges.
“We put pressure on them when we needed to put pressure, we didn’t back away from any physicality, we got (the puck) deep when we needed to get it deep,” Curran said.
Eagles Head Coach Andrew Milne gave Drumheller credit for the way they performed Thursday night.
“I have to give them a lot of credit, they came really hard,” said Milne.
“I thought they got lucky with some of their breaks and we were unlucky and (Hogue) made some pretty good saves. That is a recipe for disaster.
“We outshot them and out possessioned them in their end but at the end of the day they scored on their chances and we didn’t.”
Both coaches though echoed the comment that winning the first game does not mean the series is over.
“We came in here as the slight underdog and knowing we had to win one game,” Curran said. “It’s nice to win the first game and I like the way our boys played. We have to make some adjustments for (Friday’s) game but we will address that tomorrow.”
Milne commented: “It’s five games it isn’t one. I don’t think we need to make any changes. I thought we played well. We had puck possession down low, we had opportunities to score.”
It was a scoreless first period.
The opening 10 minutes of this series were fairly uneventful until Daylan Marchi hit Dragon Levi Wunder hard into the boards at 9:53. The play led to a scrum and while gloves were dropped and players squared off only five minors –- three to Canmore — were assessed.
Marchi earned an automatic game misconduct for a checking from behind minor he received on the play. Wunder was assisted from the ice to the bench but did not play another shift in the period and did not come out with the team at the start of the second period.
Milne said the 17-year-old rookie was only guilty of playing with too much enthusiasm.
“He’s playing on edge for sure and skating on a fine line,” Milne said. “He wants to impress and this is his first AJHL playoff game… unfortunately he made that hit.”
The hit will certainly earn a league review, with Marchi’s fate for the second game to be decided Friday morning.
The Eagles started to assert themselves in the final half of the period, aided by a pair of Dragons’ penalties and finished the period with 10 shots to the visitor’s seven shots. Both teams had two power plays.
The first goal of this series at 3:02 of the second period was scored by Connor Boyd, who stole the puck at his own blue line and then went in uncontested on Bontorin, beating the goaltender with a low shot stick side.
The goal came just one second after the Eagles failed to execute on their third power-play opportunity of the game.
Filbrandt made it 2-0 at 13:34 with a wrist shot from the blue line that found the bottom of the net as a screened Bontorin never moved on the shot.
Tisdale finally gave the hometown fans reason to rise out of their seats when he beat Hogue top corner, glove side at 16:42. Braden Saretsky had a deserved assist on the play with a nifty pass putting Tisdale into perfect position for the shot.
Drumheller outshot Canmore 14-9 in the period.
The Dragons controlled the opening face-off of the third period and 27 seconds later had a 3-1 lead when Boyd passed from behind the Eagles’ net to Holinaty parked at the top of the goal crease. His shot found its way under Bontorin.
The Eagles weren’t without their chances in the period, pressing and taking plenty of shots, most of which were off target but when they were on goal Hogue was up to the task.
Drumheller sealed a 4-1 win at 12:26 when Many Guns pounced on a loose puck inside the Eagles’ blue line that had been knocked down by a Canmore defenceman and two quick steps snapped a shot low far side on Bontorin.
The Dragons would finish the game with back-to-back power plays in the final three minutes. Forchuk also took a 10-minute misconduct in the final minute.
The fourth leading scorer in the AJHL this season, along with linemates Logan Ferguson (who tied Forchuk for fourth at 72 points) and Lane Olson failed to deliver the types of game's fans have come to expect from them.
''I think they need to get a little more work ethic in their game,” said Milne. “I didn't think Ferguson was at his best… but at the end of the day it is the other guys on this team that are going to have to be successful. They [Forchuk-Ferguson-Olson] are going to be checked relentlessly.”
As the playoffs begin the respective division leaders – Brooks Bandits in the South and the two-times defending champion Spruce Grove Saints in the North — are resting up at home, earning byes while the other 12 teams involved in the post-season tournament play as many as five games in the next seven days.
Around the league:
Grizzlys 1 at Kodiaks 5
At Camrose, the hometown Kodiaks outshot the Grizzlys 48-17 and got goals from five different players. Cole McBride finished with one goal and one assist.
Canucks 2 at Oilers 6
At Okotoks, Matt McNair scored two goals in leading the home team to victory.
Oil Barons 3 at Wolverines 4
At Whitecourt, Matt Gervais scored two goals to lead the home team to the opening game win, including the eventual game winner at 3:50 of the third period.
Thunder 2 at Bobcats 3
At Lloydminster, the home team scored three consecutive goals to rally back from a 1-0 deficit, with Morgan Messenger’s second-period power-play goal standing up as the game winner.
Crusaders 4 at Pontiacs 3 (OT)
At Bonnyville, Ryan Kruper scored at 4:19 of the first overtime period to give Sherwood Park the opening game win. The Pontiacs outshot the Crusaders 51-32.
All series resume Friday.
EAGLES NEST: Scratches for Canmore were Colby Livingstone (suspended), Ryley Risling, Brayden Biccum and Kyle Pauls. …. Drumhller had to reach into the minor hockey ranks for an emergency backup goaltender when Xavier Burghardt was unable to dress. Austin Prior, 17 years old, of Strathmore dressed for the game. … The series will switch to Drumheller on Sunday (4 p.m.) and Monday (7 p.m., if necessary). If a fifth game is needed it will be in Canmore on Wednesday, 7 p.m. at the Canmore Rec Centre.