It is a happy and prosperous beginning to the New Year for the Canmore Eagles.
Buoyed by strong goaltending and a robust power play, the Eagles took down the Camrose Kodiaks 4-2 on Sunday evening in the first of a two-game set between these two Alberta Junior Hockey League South Division rivals, which also featured the largest crowd this season as 680 fans filed into the Canmore Recreation Centre.
The league-leading scoring tandem of Matt Forchuk and Logan Ferguson each scored power-play goals for the Eagles, while the first day of the new year provided a first goal for Eagles rookie Trevor Van Steinburg. Coy Prevost would put the game on ice with an empty net marker with 17 seconds remaining.
Camrose would trail 3-0 after 40 minutes but would make it a one-goal came on goals by Colin Schmidt and Tate Coughlin in the opening minutes of the third period.
If it wasn't for some outstanding goaltending by Bontorin in the first 40 minutes of this contest the result could have gone the other way. He only had to make 15 saves through the first two periods but many were of the spectacular kind including whipping out a glove hand to deny the Kodiaks a goal on two-man breakaway. The Kodiaks would fire another 14 shots his way in the final 20 minutes but the 20-year-old looked steady even if two shots did get by him.
“That's what a 20-year-old goaltender in our league needs to do, play well enough to give us a chance to win and I thought he was real good and made some big saves,” said Andrew Milne, Eagles GM and head coach.
Canmore outshot Camrose 30-29 on the night, with Patrick Gora in goal for the Kodiaks.
There was plenty of fireworks in the opening half of this game and it led to the Eagles scoring two power-play goals on their first five chances of this game.
Forchuk opened the scoring with his 17th goal with the Eagles enjoying the man advantage. Ferguson fired an intentional shot off the backboards behind the Kodiaks' goal with the puck kicking out to a wide-open Forchuk standing on the goal line at the side of the net. There was nothing but open goal for him to slide the puck into at 15:56 of the opening period.
In the second period, Van Steinburg scored his first junior A goal in his 34th game, whipping the puck over Gora's right shoulder and just under the crossbar far side at 4:05.
Ferguson then scored the Eagles' second power-play goal just 51 seconds later almost from the same right wing spot that Van Steinburg scored. Only Ferguson's shot was lower down and Gora thought he trapped it between blocker and jersey but the puck made its way through and slide just inside the post.
It all looked great for the Eagles through 40 minutes.
However, an early giveaway in the third period allowed Schmidt to score his fourth of the season at 2:27 and breathe some life into the Kodiaks.
Then during a five-on-three power-play, Coughlin, whose hard work on the first goal led to an assist, was given plenty of opportunity to score and made it a 3-2 game at 5:39. The newest member of the Kodiaks got his second goal in his sixth game since joining the team from the BCHL Nanaimo Clippers. He also played two-plus seasons with the WHL Kelowna Rockets.
While trailing 3-2, the Kodiaks would take three more minor penalties in the third period which the Eagles failed to capitalize on while experimenting with the use of five forwards.
“I just think with our back end being a little banged up, and with only six defence, it was time we can give them a rest in these situations,” said Milne, further citing having back-to-back games as motivation to give rest to his blue line corps when it arises.
With the referees finally whistled out the game settled into a mad dash of end-to-end hockey the final six minutes with Prevost's 14th goal at 19:43 settling the result.
The win puts fifth-place Canmore (20-12-4) within one point of fourth-place Camrose (21-14-3) as the two teams have only 15 hours until the puck drops on the next game between these two rivals, 2:30 p.m. at the Canmore Rec Centre.
EAGLES NEST: Healthy scratches for Canmore were Daylan Marchi and Mitch Zambon. … Camrose was without Jason Mowbray who has joined the Spokane Chiefs of the WHL. … Canmore was 2-for-9 on the power play and Camrose was 1-for-7.
Photo by Pam Doyle Photography