Two teams that were intertwined for the first half of this Alberta Junior Hockey League season showed maybe just how much they have grown apart on Thursday night despite both having winning records.
The Canmore Eagles extended their season-high winning streak to eight games as they defeated the Camrose Kodiaks 4-1 before 974 fans in Encana Arena in Camrose.
“I thought we played great,” said Andrew Milne, Eagles GM and head coach.
Canmore improved to 30-16-5 and jumped into third place in the South Division.
For Camrose — who dropped two games in Canmore on the first two days of 2017 which allowed the Eagles to tie them on points and for fourth place in the division — the latest result has them at 28-21-3 and six points back and in fifth place., The Kodiaks have lost each of their last three games after putting together a five-game winning streak that had them keeping pace with the Eagles.
Canmore has won four of the five meetings between the two teams this season, with the two teams back at it again on Friday again in Camrose (7 p.m., Encana Arena).
Milne said he expects his players to execute the same game plan.
“The exact same thing, don't deviate at all,” said Milne. “We know they are not going to change. They are going to come even harder.”
Braden Saretsky and Bryce Platt each scored twice for Canmore.
Camrose's goal came from team-leading scorer Bryston Traptow, his 11th goal as a Kodiak and 22nd of the season. The other 11 goals came as a member of the Whitecourt Wolverines.
Canmore outshot Camrose 33-32..
Thomas Davis was in goal for the Eagles in place of Ryan Bontorin, who had a 30-save, shutout performance on Tuesday in a 6-0 win over the Calgary Mustangs.
Patrick Gora was between the pipes for the Kodiaks for the fifth consecutive time against the Eagles.
Canmore jumped out to a 1-0 lead on the power play which entered the game operating at nearly 30 per cent against the Kodiaks and would go 2-for-7 this night. A tic-tac-toe play left Platt with little to do but tap the puck toward the open net at 5:44. It would be the only goal of the opening frame.
Platt would register his 15th goal of the season when he tipped in a Travis Verveda wrist shot, taken from out near the blue line, at 14:04 of the middle period.
Saretsky scored on what was a virtually a 5-on-3 power-play situation at 18:01. The Canmore winger picked up the puck near centre ice just as the first penalty ended and skated down the right wing then swooped across the front of the goal uncontested and tucked the puck under Gora.
In the third period, Saretsky scored his team-leading 28th goal — he had 17 last season — by snapping the puck in shortside off a pass from Logan Ferguson from behind the Camrose net at 3:23.
With his two goals and also one assist, Saretsky moved into fifth place in AJHL scoring with 63 points (28 goals and 35 assists).
Ferguson picked up two assists and holds down second place in league scoring with 74 points (26 goals and 48 assists).
The league-leader is the centreman on this line Matt Forchuk at 75 points (25 goals and 50 assists).
Milne said there may be some adjustment on the scoresheet which could see Forchuk pick up two assists but the changes will not be known until video review makes them conclusive.
Traptow would end Davis's shutout bid with 2:15 to play.
Milne said it was disappointing not to get Davis his first blank card but that wasn't the primary goal the last six minutes of the contest.
“That was a lot of game management … we played the third and fourth line the entire final six minutes,” said Milne. “Being able to rest the top two lines bodes well for us going into tomorrow. Keeping them rested makes them hungry for tomorrow.
“I think education is important moving forward and the more times you can give those [third and fourth liners] those situations the more they are going to develop and the better they are going to be as players. It's putting them into positions where they can be successful, and you feel happy for them because they are being successful.”
With the win, Canmore leapfrogged the idle Calgary Canucks (30-16-4) for third place in the division although the Eagles now have played one more game.
Canmore also moved two points back of the second-place Okotoks Oilers (31-15-5). The Eagles have two more games with the Oilers this season, including Tuesday in Okotoks.
EAGLES NEST: It was eight seasons between regular-season wins for the Eagles in Camrose but now they have two in a row with one more to play this season. … Camrose had five power plays but no rewards. … Not dressing for the Eagles were F Jake Ashton and D/F Cole Noble. … The other two players in the Top 5 in AJHL scoring are Brooks Bandits' Tyrell Mappin with 70 points (20G-50A) and Oliver Chau at 69 points (29G-40A). … Next week includes a home-and-home doubleheader with the Drumheller Dragons: Friday in Drumheller (7:30 p.m., Memorial Arena) and Saturday in Canmore (7 p.m., Canmore Rec Centre).
Photo by: Pam Doyle Photography