The Canmore Eagles may have concluded the first half of their 2015-16 Alberta Junior Hockey League regular season with a pair of road loses to the Camrose Kodiaks, but Eagles Head Coach and General Manager Andrew Milne still remains positive about the performance of his team over the club’s first 30 games of the season.
The Eagles, who lost 5-0 and 5-1 in Camrose over the weekend, wrapped up the first half of their 60-game regular season schedule with a record of 16-12-2 and find themselves in third-place tie with the Okotoks Oilers in the AJHL Southern Division standings with 34 points.
When the regular season began back in early September, the Eagles started the 2015-16 campaign with a rookie-laden club that was minus last year’s top five scorers and no returning goaltenders.
“Although we have squandered a few opportunities to gain a few more points in the standings, I am relatively happy with our first half of the season,” said Milne, who has 12 rookies in his starting lineup this season. “ We have a fast, hard-working club and they are gaining valuable experience on the fly this year. Our returning veterans have stepped up their games offensively, our rookies are contributing on a regular basis, our defence is solid, and our two goaltenders have been battling hard every night.”
With just five games to go before the Christmas break, Milne is hoping his team can end the 2015 portion of the schedule on a positive note. Despite four of the five remaining games being played on home ice, the Eagles have their work cut out as leading scorers Matt Forchuk (43 points in 29 games) and Logan Ferguson (35 points in 29 game) are away attending the Team Canada West selection camp and may not return to the Eagles camp until the New Year. A slew of nagging injuries is also currently weighing down the club.
“We are a development hockey league and although it may hurt our hockey club temporarily, we couldn’t be happier that Forchuk and Ferguson have been given the opportunity to try out for Team Canada West,” said Milne, who elected to make no player moves on the Dec. 1 AJHL trading deadline. “The selection camp and possible World Junior A Tournament experience will be very good for both of them and they will come back as better players in the New Year. It’s a long season and we just have to get through these next five games as best we can and then we’ll regroup for the New Year. I like our team. We still have a lot of room for improvement and a lot of work to do, but the ingredients are there to be a contending team when it really counts.”
NOTEBOOK: Twenty-year Kurt Hildebrand returned to the Eagle’s lineup in Camrose on Saturday night after missing the club’s previous 27 games with an upper body injury. The third-year Eagle, who had 23 points in 51 games last season, would be a huge addition to the club if he can remain in the line-up. . . The Eagles called up forward Ryan Swier for both games in Camrose over the weekend The 19-year-old Lacombe, Alberta native played for the Portage Terriers of the MJHL in 2014-15 and the Lloydminster Bobcats in 2013-14.