For the 2nd straight year, the Canmore Eagles were able to push their 1st Round series to the decisive game. But unlike last year, the Eagles were unable to win the decisive game as they fell the Camrose Kodiaks in Game 7 by a score of 8-2. The win allows the Kodiaks to move on to the 2nd Round of the AJHL Playoffs and they will take on the Okotoks Oilers, who finished at the top of the South Division.
?I think that tonight was not our night,? said Eagles Head Coach and General Manager Andrew Milne. ?We were fighting the puck in a lot of areas, we weren?t as strong as we could be. We bobbled too many pucks and I think whether that was emotion, butterflies, whatever it was, we fought the puck. It started in the 1st and it didn?t stop. We ended up fighting all night.?
The Eagles found themselves behind the 8-ball only 1:40 into the game, as Kodiaks Forward Cody Leskosky fired a shot from along one of the sideboards and the puck found the back of the net. At 11:12, the Kodiaks capitalized on an Eagles giveaway in front of their net as Erik Miller was the beneficiary of that Kodiaks 2nd goal.
In the 2nd period, the Kodiaks cashed in on an Eagles turnover in their own zone with Cam McAdams getting the goal at 5:56. The Kodiaks added a shorthanded goal at 12:09 as Damon Zimmer stole the puck from an Eagles Defenceman at the Kodiaks blueline and went in all alone and beat Kilpatrick to make it 4-0 Kodiaks. The Eagles were able to get on the board with a Power Play goal from Zach Carlson at 17:23, his 3rd of the Playoffs. Michael Spafford and Drae Gardiner got the assists.
However, the Kodiaks were able to regain their 4-goal lead before the end of the period with Carson Welke finding the twine at 19:45.
In the 3rd period, the Eagles showed their frustration by taking some undisciplined penalties and the Kodiaks made them pay with 3 Power Plays goals from McKenzie Welke at 3:50, Erik Miller at 13:31 and Griffen Fraser at 16:57. The Eagles were able to add a goal on the Power Play by Tristan Zandee at 18:39. Dylan Witzke and Alex Young assisted.
Between the pipes, Kadin Kilpatrick got the start and he made 18 saves. The final shots on goal were 35-26 in favour of the Eagles.
Game 7 certainly did not tell the tale of the rest of the series. The first 6 games were close games and with a few that could have gone either way. When asking Coach Milne what made the difference in the series, he answered saying, ?I think it?s hard to put a finger on it. You’ve got to give their goaltender (Griffin Bowerman) a lot of credit. I think he was real good. He played really well in every game and gave them a chance to win every night. He was good and we had a tough time with him. I thought tonight he started the game real well and made some big saves in that 1st period, that could have changed the outcome of the game. He was good and at the end of the day, you get a Game 7 and they were fortunate to win it.?
Despite not being able to advance to Round 2, Coach Milne praised his group for their overall effort in the entire series, saying, ?For us to fight to where we got to in this series was outstanding. Our guys battled hard every night, they put themselves in a good position. You know we had some situations where we could have bailed out and we didn?t. We battled back and put ourselves in Game 7 situation, played Game 7 and could go either way and tonight wasn?t our night. We didn?t have anywhere near the puck luck we would have liked and the opportunities found us all night and we ended up with a loss.?
The game marked the end of the Junior career for 4 Eagles players. 20-year-old Forwards Connor Lyons, Owen Reith and Defenceman Jared Bowman will graduate due to age, along with 18-year-old Forward Alex Young who will be moving on to play NCAA Hockey at Colgate University in the fall.
Bowman who just completed a 4-year career in the Alberta Junior Hockey League splitting his time with Olds Grizzlys and the Eagles, playing 2 seasons with each club spoke after the game saying, ?It?s been a hell of a journey. I met a lot of great friends, some great coaches along the way. But the biggest thing is all the memories I?ll have that will last a lifetime. I?ll cherish those forever, that?s for sure.?
In his 4 seasons in the AJHL, Bowman appeared in 218 regular-season games and 22 playoff games. When asked about some of his favourite memories of his Junior career, he mentioned the Eagles exciting playoff run last year and this season?s winning streak that included back-to-back wins over the Brooks Bandits and a win over the Okotoks Oilers.
?We wish them all the best,? said Coach Milne about his 4 graduating players. ?I thought again, those were the guys we needed to be good and the way they played, it was a good series for those guys?.
EAGLES FUN FACTS:
– The Eagles outshot the Kodiaks in all 7 games of the series, outshooting them by a total margin of 271-177.
– Alex Young finished the Playoffs with 4 goals and 13 points, which puts him tied for 2nd in the AJHL Playoff scoring race at the end of the 1st Round.
AROUND THE AJHL
With the 1st Round of the AJHL Playoffs now over, all 2nd Round matchups are set. In the South, the Kodiaks will take on the Okotoks Oilers who finished at the top of the Division with an impressive record of 47-7-4 for 98 points. That series is scheduled to start in Okotoks on Saturday night. The other series in the South will feature the defending National Champions, the Brooks Bandits who finished in 2nd Place with a record of 46-10-2 for 94 points and like Okotoks, they also enjoyed a 1st round bye. The Bandits will take on the 3rd seeded Drumheller Dragons who dispatched the Olds Grizzlys in 5 games in the opening round. The series will begin in Brooks on Friday night.
In the North Division, the Sherwood Park Crusaders who finished at the top of Division for the 2nd straight season with a record of 49-9 for 98 points. The Cru will be coming off a 1st round bye and their 2nd round opponent will be the 5th seeded Drayton Valley Thunder who are coming off a 1st round upset of the higher-seeded Bonnyville Pontiacs in 6 games. The other series in the North will feature the 3rd seeded Whitecourt Wolverines and the 2nd seeded Spruce Grove Saints. Both teams won their respective opening-round series in 6 games. The 2 North Division series are scheduled to start on Friday night on each side of the Anthony Henday Highway.