January has certainly been a busy and eventful month for the Canmore Eagles. The team played 13 games, their most of any month this season, including 12 in the last 23 days.
To wrap up the month, the Eagles played a pair of home games this weekend. On Friday night, the Eagles hosted the Olds Grizzlys, a team that came into the contest having not won a game since November 13 (winless in 22 games). The Grizzlys though came to the CRC with a lot of jump and determined to finally end their long losing skid as they stunted the Eagles by a score of 4-3 in overtime.
“Again we didn”™t start on time. We made little mistakes that cost us. We battled back and showed that character, but we could have saved ourselves some work had we played the third period in the first” says Eagles Head Coach and General Manager Andrew Milne.
The two teams exchanged a pair of goals in the opening frame. It was the Grizzlys striking first on a goal from Aidan Coupe only 2:32 into the period. The Eagles answered back at the ninth minute mark courtesy of a power play goal from Braden Plaschewsky, his seventh of the season. Kyle Young and Isaac Suppin drew the assists. The Grizzlys regained the lead at 13:41 with Tanner Kilmpke finding the back of the net. Kyle Young got the Eagles back on even terms in the final minute of the period with his 11th goal of the season. Carter Myrol and Casey Black got the assists. The visitors got the only goal of the middle frame on a goal from Sheldon Kwiatkowski. The score remained 3-2 Grizzlys until the dying seconds of the third period as the Eagles who had a 6-on-4 advantage being on the power play and having their goalie pulled for an extra attacker took advantage to tie the game and send it to overtime with Mitchell Watson scoring his seventh of the season with eight seconds left. Ethan Schaeffer and Drae Gardner assisted.
The Grizzlys though didn”™t let that tying goal demoralize them as Forward Colby Browne ended the game at 1:40 of the 3-on-3 overtime period to give his team a long awaited win.
Matthew Malin got the start between the pipes for the Eagles and he made 45 saves on 49 shots. Shots on goal were 49-32 for Olds.
With a couple of bodies missing to the lineup, the Eagles used four affiliate players for the game. Defenceman Casey Black, Forwards Zephyr Laplante and Jake Neufeld. Also Goalie Noah Nelson dressed as an emergency backup. All four play for different Midget AAA teams in Calgary and Coach Milne was really pleased with the play of his call ups.
On Saturday night, the Eagles hosted a North Division opponent, the Drayton Valley Thunder who sit in fourth place in their Division. Despite a great all-around team effort and outshooting the Thunder by a 40-32 margin, the Eagles fell just short, losing 2-1 in a Shootout.
“I”™m very happy we played a great game tonight. It was super exciting Hockey for the fans this weekend” says Coach Milne.
It was the Thunder who struck first at 16:52 of the opening frame with a power play goal from Kadyn Chabot. Early in the second period, the Eagles answered back with a power play goal of their own as Ethan Schaeffer found the twine with his team leading 20th of the season. Those 2 goals stood as the only goals for the 65 minutes of the game. Both goalies, Jackson Berry for the Thunder and Matthew Malin for the Eagles stole the show. Berry made 39 saves on 40 shots, while Malin made 31 saves on 32 shots. In the shootout though, unfortunately Malin could not replicate his performance of the last time the Eagles went to the Shootout in Drumheller on Sunday when he stopped all 5 Dragons shooters. This time, the Thunder made the shootout short lived as their first two shooters Ethan Browne and Moe Hakim scored, while the two Eagles shooters Braden Plachewsky and Isaac Suppin were denied by Jackson Berry.
One unit for the Eagles that has been struggling all season long, but has found some success lately is the power play. For most of the season, the Eagles”™ PP had ranked last in the league, but recently it moved up to 15th. In their last 6 games, the Eagles”™ man advantage has gone 6-for-26 (23.08%), which is much higher than the % for the whole season that stands at 14.22%.
“We have worked hard on it and confidence has been high on it” says Coach Milne.
Last night”™s game also marked the return of team Captain Lane Paddison who had been out of action since November 28th.
In the South standings, the Eagles still sit in fifth place with an overall record of 18-24-9 for 45 points. The Eagles are seven points back of the Okotoks Oilers and four points up on the Blackfalds Bulldogs. The number of points separating the middle of the pack teams is the exact same as it was before the start of the weekend. With the Olds Grizzlys losing their game last night to the Calgary Canucks, allowed the Eagles to secure a playoff spot as the Grizzlys can mathematically no longer catch up to the Eagles.
With 9 games left in the regular season, the Eagles will certainly welcome having a lighter schedule in the month of February as they try to get the best possible seed for when the playoffs kick off on March 4th.
The Eagles continue their five game homestand on Tuesday night, as they host the Brooks Bandits (42-5-1). Although they still hold the league”™s best record, the Bandits have struggled lately as they dropped three of their last five games. The Eagles will then have another home doubleheader next weekend as they will host a pair of North Division opponents, the Lloydminster Bobcats (25-21-2) on Friday night and Spruce Grove Saints (36-9-5). Puck drop for all three games will be at 7 pm.