Wednesday, October 24, 2012 – As the Canmore Eagles prepare for a pair of home games this weekend against the Sherwood Park Crusaders (Sat. Oct. 27 at 7 pm) and Bonnyville Pontiacs (Sunday Oct. 28 at 2:30 pm), one has to be impressed with the progress that the Alberta Junior Hockey League team has made over the first quarter of the 2012-13 AJHL season.
With 15 games of their 60-game regular season schedule now in the record books, the Eagles fashion an impressive 8-4-3 record and sit in second-place in the AJHL Southern Division standings with 19 points. In their six games played at the Canmore Recreation Centre, they have lost just once in regulation time and that was to the nation’s #1 team – the Brooks Bandits.
“It’s been a great start to the season,” confirms Eagle’s Head Coach and General Manager Andrew Milne, whose club just returned from a three-game road trip with three straight victories. “Every player is buying into the system and doing what they need to do to help us win hockey games. The results to date speak for themselves.”
To succeed in the AJHL, teams need to have excellent goaltending, receive strong leadership from their veteran players, and roll four strong lines throughout the game.
“We have two #1 goaltenders in Ty Swabb and Cam Barnes,” said Milne. “Both have played very well this season and the team is comfortable with either one of them in the net. When you have to play three games in 2 ½ days, it’s a great luxury to have a rested goaltender ready to go. The club seems comfortable playing in the third period with a one or two goal lead this year because we know we know we have the goaltending to pull us through.”
The Eagles have also received some stellar production from their core of 20-year players this year as Zack Rassell (21 pts) is battling for the AJHL scoring championship, captain Riley Point has 15 pts and fourth-year veteran Steven Phee has 13 pts, including 10 goals. Twenty-year old defenceman Alex Barnes (5 pts) and Ciaron Driscoll (4 pts) have also logged a ton of ice time and provide a steadying influence at the back end.
On the rookie front, forwards Jordon Revie, Connor Wilson, Kyle Pauls and defenceman Aston Mcleod have all seen regular ice-time and have added some much needed depth to the club.
“Everyone is contributing this year,” said Milne. “The Canmore boys (Luke Simpson, Nils Moser, John Stevens, Jeremy Gordon and Kyle Pauls) have all played exceptionally well, played a lot of minutes, and have provided great leadership. As we head into the second quarter of the season, the team is in a good place. We finally have some confidence that we are a good team and that we are capable of winning any game, on any given night. We still have lots of work to do, but so far, so good.”
NOTEBOOK: Attendance at the six Eagle home games to date is up 20% from a year ago. . . .Canmore will catch a scheduling break this weekend as both the Sherwood Park Crusaders and the Bonnyville Pontiacs will be playing their third game in as many days when they travel to Canmore. Sherwood Park will play in Calgary against the Mustangs on Thursday night and in Okotoks on Friday night. Bonnyville will play in Brooks on Friday night and Okotoks on Saturday night. . Eagle forward Connor Hoekstra has been selected to the World Junior A Canada West hockey team tryouts this weekend in Calgary. Hoekstra was a member of last year's Team Canada West Gold Medal winning team.