For the 3rd time over the last 7 days, the Canmore Eagles were facing the same team they had yet to solve this season, the Okotoks Oilers. In the 6th and final meeting between the 2 teams this season, the Eagles were able to get the best of their South Division rivals, as they edged the Oilers by a score 3-2 to snap a 4-game losing streak in front of 533 fans this afternoon at the Canmore Recreation Centre. A big win for the Eagles as it allows them to leapfrog the Calgary Mustangs and move to 5th Place in the AJHL South division with a record of 28-23-5 for 61 points. The Eagles are 1 point up on the Mustangs, however, they remain 5 points back of the 4th place Camrose Kodiaks who won their games yesterday and today. The final home-ice advantage spot is 4th place in the 1st round of the Playoffs.
Eagles’ Head Coach and General Manager Andrew Mile was certainly very happy to see his team get rewarded with the big win this afternoon saying, “I thought we did a lot of things right here in the last couple of games. We played Sherwood Park to a 3-1 game, one of the highest scoring teams in the league, I thought it was a great game defensively. Realistically we played Okotoks on Saturday to a 2-1 game for 57 minutes. Tonight we were good again defensively, we were smart and we capitalized on the chances we got. We had some skill to score those goals. We had great goaltending, great defensive play and we had the offence we needed.”
The Eagles got on the board first as Brent Schuldhaus (6th) fired a shot from the right point that found the back of the net at 17:53 of the first. Finn Withey and Aidan West picked up the assists. The Oilers tied the game 1-1 at 5:58 of the 2nd period on a goal from Louis Jamernik. Before the end of the middle frame, the Eagles were able to regain the lead as team Captain Colton Young (25th) scored a Power Play goal when he was on a partial breakaway. Mark Drohan got the assist and the Eagles went back to the dressing room up 2-1.
In the 3rd period, after the Eagles survived some big pressure from the Oilers in their own end, Finn Withey (5th) was able to find the puck on his stick in the offensive zone, he dangled, undressed an Oilers’ defenceman and beat Oilers goalie Brady Parker to extend the Eagles’ lead to 3-1. Michael Spafford picked up the assist. The Oilers were able to get within one with 1:48 left in regulation on a goal from Austin Wong, who’s a Winnipeg Jets draft pick. However, the visitors were unable to tie the game and force Overtime as the Eagles hung on for the win.
It was Thomas Davis who was between the Eagles’ net for the 2nd consecutive game. The 20-year-old from St.Albert stopped 28 of the 30 shots he faced to improve his record to 13-8-3. The shots on goal were 30-26 in favour of Okotoks.
“That’s the goalie we wanted, that’s the goalie we needed, that’s Thomas, he’s a good goaltender,” said Coach Milne. “He’s had a couple of rough starts, but I thought his last 2 games were his 2 best games of the year.”
Thomas Davis spoke after the game and he gave a lot of credit to his teammates in today’s win saying, “I think we had a really defensive mindset, I think we took our chances, we got them and didn’t try to force them. We were on the right side of the puck for most of the game and it helped me out a ton to keep those goals against down.” Davis also mentioned that his teammates blocked the shots he could not see and they let him stop the ones he could see and he was grateful for that.
The Eagles who just had a busy stretch of their schedule having played 6 games in their last 11 days get to enjoy a lighter schedule as their only game over the next week is on Friday, February 22 when they host the Drumheller Dragons (33-18-4) for their final home game of the regular season. The game could be the preview of a 1st Round matchup between the two teams.
“We’re gonna get healthy first,” said Coach Milne. “I think that’s the big part of utilizing the time off we have. Obviously, Max Giangualano, Quinton Ong and Carter Coles were out tonight with some sickness, so to get healthy is important, so that’s what this week of rest will be all about. Get healthy and get back to it. We’re late enough in the year in which our guys have proven in the last couple of games that they can play on both sides of the puck offensively and defensively. We just have to play for 60 minutes and have mental control against Drumheller.”
After Friday night’s game, the Eagles will play their final 3 games of the regular season on the road, before the start of the playoffs on Thursday, March 7.
Update on the playoff race in the South Division:
The Brooks Bandits who have an impressive record of 53 wins and 3 losses and are on a 29-game winning streak, an AJHL record, have clinched 1st Place in the South Division and 1st Place overall. After they play their final game of the regular season, the RBC Cup hosts will have to sit until the start of the 2nd Round of the Playoffs, which will be on March 15.
The Okotoks Oilers are in 2nd place with a record of 37-17-2 for 76 points. With 4 games left to play, the Oilers are 6 points up on the 3rd Place Drumheller Dragons. Drumheller, however, has a game in hand on Okotoks. It is safe to say that Okotoks should finish 3rd at worst.
The Dragons with a record of 33-18-4 for 70 points are trying to catch up Okotoks with 5 games left to play. The team that is chasing them are the 4th place Camrose Kodiaks who have a record of 30-19-6 for 66 points. The Dragons should have home ice advantage as the 5th place Canmore Eagles can no longer catch up the Dragons for 3rd Place as they trail Drumheller by 9 points with 4 games left to play.
The 6th Place Calgary Mustangs can still mathematically catch up Drumheller, but they will have their win all of their remaining 5 games and have Drumheller lose all of their games in regulation. Drumheller should get home ice advantage for the 1st round by finishing somewhere between 2nd and 4th.
Camrose can still mathematically finish 2nd, but they will have to win all of their remaining 5 games and have Okotoks lose all their remaining games in regulation. If the Kodiaks don’t catch up the Dragons, they will look to hold off the Canmore Eagles (28-23-5, 61 pts) and the Calgary Mustangs (26-21-8, 60 pts) for the last spot for home ice advantage. Speaking of the Eagles and the Mustangs, they both have their eyes on 4th place to get home ice advantage for the 1st Round of the Playoffs. The Mustangs trail the Kodiaks by 6 points with 5 games left to play, but they are no matchups left vs Camrose. The Eagles on the other hand trail the Kodiaks by 5 points with only have 4 games left to play, but the luxury they have over the Mustangs is that they get to play to Kodiaks twice in the final weekend of the regular season.
Finally, for the final playoff spot in the South (the only playoff spot still up for grabs in the AJHL) is the Calgary Canucks (9-46-1, 19 pts) who have a 4 point lead over the Olds Grizzlys (6-47-3, 15 pts). The 2 teams don’t have any more matchups between each other, which makes it hard for Olds to get the final playoff spot. There are only 2 weeks left in the regular season and it should an exciting finish! Go out and support your team!
EAGLES’ FUN FACTS:
– It was the Eagles’ 1st win over Okotoks since March 4 2017. Technically it was, because last season, the Oilers won all 6 meetings between the 2 teams, but the Eagles were awarded a default win because in one of the meetings, the Oilers had an ineligible player.
– In their 3 games vs Okotoks this past week, the Eagles held the AJHL’s leading scorer, Oilers forward Dylan Holloway (50 GP, 36 G, 48 A- 84 pts) to only 1 assist. Coach Milne gives credit to his players for being able to identify him and contain him.
– It has become a tradition for the Eagles to host an afternoon game on Family Day with a skate with the players after the game. Since 2013, the Eagles have hosted a game on every Monday Family Day and their record on those games is 4-3.