Eagles look for sweep

Eagles look for sweep

Home ice served the Canmore Eagles well as they began their Alberta Junior Hockey League play-in with the Fort McMurray Oil Barons.

The Eagles won the first two games of this best-of-five series played at the Canmore Recreation Centre Thursday (March 7) and Friday (March 8). They are now in a position to sweep the series when it resumes on Sunday, March 10 in Fort McMurray.

Canmore won the opening game 5-0 and followed it with a 4-1 victory. It was a dominant performance by the Eagles on both nights against a shorthanded Oil Barons squad, who required the services of five affiliate players to round out its lineup.

On Thursday, Ethan Look and Logan Ziegler each scored twice, once each in the first and second periods. Ziegler’s goals were particularly damaging as they came with 41 seconds remaining in the opening period and with 32 seconds left in the middle frame. Rhett Dekowny rounded out the scoring with a power-play goal in the third period.

Matthew Malin picked up the shutout as Canmore outshot Fort McMurray 57-16. Cage Stewart was in goal for the Oil Barons.

On Friday, Tyler Loughman scored twice in leading the Eagles to their second win and putting the Oil Barons on notice for the remainder of this series.

Ziegler opened the scoring with his third goal of the series just 16 seconds into the contest on the first shot of the game, a flip towards the net from the left-wing boards that slipped just under the crossbar on the short side. Loughman’s first goal was followed by Zach Coutu’s power-play marker to give the Eagles a 3-0 lead before 12 minutes had ticked off the clock.

Zayden Sadlemyer put Fort McMurray on the board late in the first period during a five-minute power play that saw Eagles rookie forward Tavynn Schlaht banished from the game for a boarding major on Oil Barons defenceman Ethan King, who had to be helped from the ice and did not return.

Loughman’s second goal midway through the second period completed the scoring.

Canmore outshot Fort McMurray 42-32 with Malin and Stewart in goal for their respective sides.

Particularly hurtful for Fort McMurray in the opening two games were suspensions being served by leading scorer Carter Schmidt, and stalwart defencmen Demitri DiFlorio and Noah Henrich. Each were handed two-game bans for their actions in the third period of the team’s final regular-season game against the Grande Prairie Storm on March 2. A league review of their actions saw each player assessed majors for a blow-to-the-head which drew the automatic suspensions. All three players are expected to return to the lineup when the series resumes in Fort McMurray.

The Oil Barons will need a win on home ice on Sunday to extend the series. Game 4 is set for Monday, March 11, also in Fort McMurray. Two wins for the home side and the series will return to Canmore for a fifth and deciding game on Wednesday, March 13.

The winner of the play-in series will join seven other teams for the AJHL playoffs that are expected to begin Friday, March 15. The top five teams from this past regular season all earned byes into the playoffs while the bottom six teams are involved in the play-in event. Gaining the byes were the Whitecourt Wolverines, Lloydminster Bobcats, Calgary Canucks, Bonnyville Pontiacs and Drumheller Dragons, who finished first to fifth respectively.

The other two play-in series feature sixth-place Grande Prairie taking on the 11th-place OIds Grizzlys and the eighth-place Camrose Kodiaks up against the ninth-place Drayton Valley Thunder. Both series are tied at one win apiece after games Thursday and Friday: the Storm winning 4-0, followed by the Grizzlys winning 3-2; the Thunder winning 5-4 in overtime after falling behind 4-0, followed by the Kodiaks triumphing 2-1. Both series will also resume Sunday.