SPRUCE GROVE, AB. – Much better.
After playing poorly in a 7-1 loss to the Grande Prairie Storm to open this year’s AJHL Showcase Weekend on Friday evening, the Canmore Eagles rebounded with a much stronger effort, but still dropped a 4-2 decision to the Northern Divisional leading Bonnyville Pontiacs (7-1-2) in their second Showcase game played on Saturday afternoon.
Canmore came out fired up to make amends for Friday’s loss and certainly controlled the pace of the game outshooting the Pontiacs 18-4 in the first period, and 28-18 overall. Pontiac goalkeeper Stephen Klein was certainly the “Star of the Game” as he continually thwarted numerous quality Eagle scoring opportunities throughout the game.
In an effort to re-energize his club, Eagle’s Head Coach/GM Andrew Milne shuffled his lineup by inserting Luke Simpson with Captain Riley Point and Zack Rassell.
Simpson responded with his best game of the season scoring his first goal of the year and assisting on Zack Rassell’s team leading fifth goal of the year.  Rassell also added an assist, while Point chipped in with two assists. Eagle netminder Ty Swabb took the loss and is now 2-2-1 on the season.
“I thought we played well against Bonnyville,” said Milne afterward. “Our work ethic was good and we played a very structured game. We had double the scoring chances they had, but they scored on all their four chances. We also gave up a short-handed goal again and that never helps. Regardless, we rebounded with a much better game and we are making progress. If we keep playing like that, more wins will come our way.”
Despite their disappointing Showcase Weekend, the Eagles still sport a respectable 4-3-1 record and are a perfect 3-0 at home. It marks the first time since the 2007-2008 season that the Eagles have been above .500 at the end of September.
With four games of their current five-game road schedule now complete, Canmore will wrap up their current road excursion with a tilt in Olds on Friday, October 5 against the Grizzlys. Olds will likely be missing a few of their players due to league suspensions as the Grizzlys were involved in an incident -filled game against Drumheller in a Friday Showcase game.
Following their away date with the Grizzlys, the Eagles will return to the friendly confines of the Canmore Recreation Centre for a three game home-stand beginning Saturday Oct. 6 against the Calgary Canucks. The Lloydminster Bobcats stop in next on Friday Oct. 12, followed-up by the first-place Brooks Bandits on Tuesday, Oct. 16.
NOTEBOOK: Spruce Grove sure puts on a great show for the AJHL Showcase Weekend and the many local volunteers should be commended for their efforts and long hours. The Showcase is a very well run event and provides tremendous exposure for the AJHL. More than 150 scouts from US and Canadian colleges, the Western Hockey League, and the National Hockey League took in the event.