PHOTO – The Eagles will need to give their goaltenders a little more protection in 2015. – photo courtesy of Julie Wilson
UPCOMING GAMES: At Spruce Grove Jan. 2
At Camrose – Jan. 3
NEXT HOME GAME: Drumheller Dragons – Tuesday, Jan. 6
The Canmore Eagles will face a very daunting task when they open the 2015 portion of their Alberta Junior Hockey League schedule with a pair of road games on the Jan.2-3 weekend.
The Eagles, with a record of 18-18-1, will visit the Northern Division’s first-place Spruce Grove Saints in Spruce Grove on Friday, Jan. 2, before heading to Camrose to play the Southern Division’s first-place Kodiaks on Saturday, Jan. 3.
The Saints are the defending AJHL champions, sport an overall record of 30-6-3, and are an impressive 14-1-3 on home-ice this season. In their 39 games played to date, the Saints have also outscored their opposition by a wide +70 goal margin. The Saints and Eagles met in Canmore on November 28, with the Saints outshooting the Eagles 38-15 and skating away with a 4-3 victory.
Things won’t get an easier for the Eagles on Saturday night when they travel to Camrose to take on the Kodiaks. The Kodiaks are an impressive 31-4-2 on the season and have also outscored their opposition by +60 goal margin. After being upset by the Eagles in last year’s AJHL Southern Division playoffs, the Kodiaks are a perfect 3-0 against Canmore this season and have outscored the Eagles 21-7 in the process.
Despite the difficult predicament of opening up on the road against two of the AJHL’s premiere teams, Eagle’s Head Coach and General Manager Andrew Milne is actually looking forward to the New Year and the club’s remaining 23 games on the schedule.
“No question, these will be two very tough games, in two very difficult arenas, but we have to play them sometime and we might as well get after it right away,” said Milne, whose club is coming off an impressive 5-2 record in December. “Although our record is just .500, we all believe that we are capable of much more. Our club has battled hard through a long list of injuries to some key players, but we are starting to get healthy again and we will be ready to go for our final 23 regular season games.”
The Eagles currently sit in sixth-place in the AJHL Southern Division standings with 37 points, four points back of the fifth-place Olds Grizzlys and 12 points back of the fourth-place Drumheller Dragons. Teams that finish in the top four in the standings secure home-ice advantage for the first-round of the playoffs, which will begin during the first week of March.
“There’s still 46 points available for us in the standings and we believe we can make a move up if everything falls into place for us, “said Milne, whose team has given up 138 goals in 37 games for a 3.73 goals against average. “Our number 1 priority going forward is to tighten up defensively. Not to make excuses, but our back-end has been decimated by some serious injuries to date. Twenty-year-old defenceman Nikolas Kosman and 19 year-old Jakob Lavoie have both missed over half the season and our goaltending tandem of Ryan Ferguson & Levi Nelson have had to battle through a slew of injuries as well. With these guys back in the lineup and feeling good, we should be much better in our own end and hopefully we can give our goalies a little more support back there.”
NOTEBOOK: After 37 games, the Canmore Eagle’s Power-Play is rated third best in the AJHL, scoring 41 powerplay goals on 184 opportunities for a .22 percent efficiency rating. . . .The Eagles have the #1 PP on home-ice converting on 27 of 100 opportunities. . . Forwards Joe Serpico, Logan Ferguson and Kyle Pauls are the only Eagles to play in all 37 Eagle games . . . Of the 23 games remaining on their schedule, the Eagles will play 12 on the road and 11 at home . . .Following this weekend’s road trip to Spruce Grove and Camrose, the Eagles will only have one more northern road swing remaining and that will be to Bonnyville (Feb. 6), Lloydminster (Feb. 7) and Camrose (Feb. 8). . . Canmore will play five of their last six regular season games on home ice. . . The Eagles have three forwards in the AJHL’s Top 20 scoring parade as Connor Wilson is in 10th-place (38 points), while Ryley Rising and Jordan Revie are tied for 17th-place with 33 points.