Eagles serve up playoff wins

Eagles serve up playoff wins

The Canmore Eagles served up a delicious order of defence to feast on as they hosted the Lloydminster Bobcats for Games 3 and 4 of their Alberta Junior Hockey League first-round playoff series.

No. 7 Canmore’s buffet included sparse offerings for No. 2 Lloydminster at the Canmore Recreation Centre to post wins of 4-3 on Tuesday (March 19) and 3-0 on Wednesday (March 20) to take a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series. The Eagles can eliminate the Bobcats with a victory in the Bordertown on Friday, March 22. Game time at the Centennial Civic Arena is 7 p.m.

Canmore garnished Lloydminster goaltender Jack Solomon with a liberal measure of shots in both games while giving the Bobcats shooters little opportunity to load up at the other end of the table. It was an especially tasty display by the Eagles on Wednesday with Matthew Malin needing to make just 12 saves to record his fourth shutout of the season: two in the regular season, one in the play-in series against the Fort McMurray Oil Barons, and the victory over the Bobcats to put his team within one win of the second round.

Malin, who has six regulation-time wins and one overtime loss since the post-season tournament began, faced only one shot in the opening period on Wednesday, and that was a point shot from Ryan Redekopp in the 12th minute. The Canmore goaltender has 2.22 goals-against average and a .923 save-percentage through seven play-in/playoff games. In the three wins in the series – including an 8-3 series opening victory over the Bobcats – the San Francisco, Calif. native has faced on average just 18 shots per game, In the lone loss, 4-3 in double overtime, the 20-year-old faced down 44 shots.

The Eagles had 14 shots in the first period on Wednesday, with Zach Coutu scoring his third goal of the series and what would prove the game winner at 11:36, taking a pass from Ethan Look off a two-on-one and going left to right across the front of the goal, opening up Solomon and sliding the puck between the pads.

The Eagles added 17 more shots in the second period, en route to 38 for the game, and two more goals as Josh Hoekstra got his first of the playoffs and Kayden Rawji added a shorthanded goal to give him three playoff goals.

It was just a matter of allowing this recipe to simmer the remainder of the contest, although it did almost reach a boiling point with just over four seconds remaining as five misconducts were handed out following an overheated scrum that involved all nine skaters on the ice, including three of the four Bobcats, who were already playing shorthanded. The officials then choose to call time on this night.

Both teams were 0-for-3 on the power play as the Bobcats knew they had to stay out of the penalty box after giving up six power-play goals over the first three games while the Eagles have been disciplined all series, averaging less than four shorthanded situations per game through the series and giving up just two power-play goals.

Canmore put themselves in position to take a stranglehold on the series with Tuesday’s win although the Bobcats nearly spoiled that night’s winning menu.

It was another dominate first period by the Eagles, outshooting the Bobcats 16-5 and taking a 3-0 lead. Goals came from Emanuel Hudson, Zach Coutu on the power play, and Look.

Lloydminster rallied back to tie the game. Remy Spooner and Ishan Mittoo scored in the second period while Redekopp would tie the game 1:11 into the third period.

Carter Coutu, twin brother of Zach Coutu, would come up with the game winner at the three-minute mark of the third period. Brody Tallman’s pass towards goal from the right point deflected off a Bobcats defender and slid to the all-alone rookie forward, who then pulled the puck from his backhand to forehand and from the bottom of the right wing, face-off circle deposited the biscuit into the gaping net.

Canmore outshot Lloydminster 42-21 with Malin and Solomon in the respective goals.

Each team had one power-play goal with the Eagles having seven man-advantage chances compared to two for the Bobcats.

Tallman (two goals and three assists) and Look (1G-4A) lead all Canmore scorers with five points.

Ben Aucoin has five points (2G-3A) to lead Lloydminster.

Should Lloydminster win on Friday, the series will return to Canmore for Game 6 on Sunday, March 24, with a 5 p.m. game time at the Canmore Recreation Centre. Also, if necessary, Game 7 would be back in Lloydminster on Tuesday, March 26.

In the other series:

No. 5 Drumheller Dragons eliminated the No. 4 Bonnyville Pontiacs, sweeping the series with a come-from-behind 5-4 overtime win on Wednesday. The Dragons trailed 3-0 and 4-2 before Ayden Peters scored a shorthanded goal with 15 seconds remaining in regulation time to tie the game. Coy Pighin then scored the game winner at 4:11 of overtime. Peters and Pighin each finished with two goals. The Dragons posted their third successive 4-3 win on Tuesday to take a 3-0 series lead, with Jacob Goudreau breaking a 3-3 tie at 13:53 of the third period.

No. 1 Whitecourt Wolverines were unable to close out their series with the No. 8 Camrose Kodiaks on Wednesday, as the Kodiaks stayed alive in the series with a 4-1 win on home ice thanks to two goals by Ty Hodge and a 45-save performance from goaltender Elliott Pratt. Game 5 is Friday in Whitecourt. The Wolverines had put the Kodiaks on verge of elimination with a 5-1 on Tuesday.

No. 3 Calgary Canucks and No. 6 Grande Prairie Storm resume their series on Friday tied 2-2 after each team won both its games on home ice. The Storm got back on equal terms in the series with wins of 3-2 on Monday (March 18) and 4-3 on Tuesday, rallying from behind in similar fashion in both games by scoring twice in the third period.