It was do-or-die for the Canmore Eagles Monday night for Game 6 against the Camrose Kodiaks at the Canmore Rec Centre. Playing with their backs against the wall is something that 7 players on this Eagles team are all too familiar with, as the Eagles faced a similar situation in their 1st Round series against the Drumheller Dragons a year ago. In front of 594 loud fans, the Eagles were successful in keeping their season alive edging the Kodiaks by a score of 3-2 to tie the Best-of-7 series at 3 games apiece and force a decisive Game 7 in Camrose on Wednesday night.
?I thought we played really well,? said Eagles Head Coach and General Manager Andrew Milne. ?Obviously, we were disciplined tonight. That was a big part of what we were trying to work on, we stayed out of the penalty box. For us, it was a good opportunity to be successful when you do that. And obviously, our Power Play was real good. That was something that we needed to have happened for our Power Play to get a little confidence. They?ve been having a lot of chances, but they?ve been a little snake bit, so it was nice to see them get opportunities to score and put us in a position to win the game.?
The Eagles? first Power Play unit looked a bit different with rookie Defenceman Cale Lyons manning the point, instead of Dylan Witzke who had been the point guy on the top Power Play unit for almost the entire season.
?Cale has a heavy shot,? said Coach Milne. ?That?s one thing, the difference between Cale and Witzke is that Cale has a real heavy shot. They were giving us at the top was that shot, so we wanted to use that as a weapon that we have. I think that was evident when we shoot the puck from up there, we have success. Obviously Spaff tips one and it goes in and gets the game-winning goal. We have a lot of weapons we can utilize, so we just employed that one at the right time.?
It was the Kodiaks who struck first on a Power Play goal from Griffen Fraser at 5:01. The Eagles answered back to tie the game at 12:11 on a nice goal from Defenceman Drae Gardiner. Michael Spafford and Lukas Jirousek assisted.
In the 2nd period, the Eagles regained the lead on a goal from Jarret Timmerman at 5:21. But the Kodiaks took some undisciplined penalties in the middle of the frame and the Eagles were able to make them pay. At 9:30, Lane Paddison cashed in on a rebound for his 2nd of the Playoffs. Alex Young and Jirousek assisted. Then at 10:29, the Eagles got another Power Play goal, this time from Michael Spafford as he tipped in a point shot from Cale Lyons for his 2nd of the Playoffs. Young also got an assist.
There were no goals in the 3rd period. The Eagles had some good chances to extend their lead, but Kodiaks netminder Griffin Bowerman stood tall and finished the night with 44 saves. At the other end, Eagles netminder Kadin Kilpatrick wasn?t as busy as his counterpart, but he was good when called upon and he stopped 24 of the 26 shots he faced to improve his playoffs record to 2-1.
?I thought Kadin was real good,? said Coach Milne. ?The first one, I know he lost track of it for a split second and when he did that, the puck snuck in over that side on him. He wasn?t happy with that one, but it was just a good screen play, so nothing there. And I thought Kadin was good. He was strong when we needed him to be. He was calm, he was cool under pressure and he was exactly what the goaltender needs to be in a do-or-die situation.?
The series now moves back to the Camrose Recreation Centre for the decisive Game 7 on Wednesday at 7 pm.
Eagles Alternate Captain Alex Young is one of the 7 Eagles players who experienced playing in a decisive game in Drumheller last year when the Eagles were successful in upsetting the favoured Dragons. He believes that the experience and the other 6 members who were a part of that decisive game in Drumheller last year will help.
?I think just the intensity, with you know, the final and deciding game, whatever team loses their season is finished, so it?s going to be a real intense game,? said Young. ?I think since we were there last year, we kinda have been there before. We know how it feels and how to keep calm under pressure. So I think it?s going to be a key to our success.”
The winner of Wednesday night?s game will move on to the 2nd Round to play the 1st Place team in the South division, the Okotoks Oilers (47-7-4) who have enjoyed a First Round bye. The series is expected to start this weekend.
EAGLES FUN FACTS:
– Alex Young is currently the leader in points in the playoffs with 12 in only 6 games, including 4 goals.
AROUND THE AJHL:
– In the North, 2 teams punched their ticket for Round 2. In Fort McMurray, the Whitecourt Wolverines were able to close out their series with a 4-1 win over the Oil Barons in Game 6.
– In Drayton Valley, the Thunder who were the 5th seed in the North were able to eliminate the higher-seeded Bonnyville Pontiacs (4th seed) with a 1-0 win in Game 6.
– The other series in the North featured the 2nd seeded Spruce Grove Saints and the 7th seeded Grande Prairie Storm. The Saints lead the series 3 games to 2 and Game 6 is tomorrow night in Grande Prairie. If the Storm can force a Game 7, it will be played in Spruce Grove on Wednesday night.
– No 2nd Round series matchup in the North is set up just yet. The only 2nd Round matchup that is set is the Drumheller Dragons who are the 3rd seed in the South Division and will play against the 2nd seeded and defending national champions, Brooks Bandits. That series will start on Friday night in Brooks.