The Canmore Eagles kicked off their playoffs Thursday night in Drumheller against the rival Dragons. The Eagles who are the 6th seed in the South Division defeated the higher seeded (3rd) Dragons 2-1 in Overtime to take a 1-0 lead in the best-of-5 series.
It was 19-year-old forward Owen Reith who was the Overtime hero. Alex Young stripped the puck from a Dragons’ Defenceman deep in Drumheller’s zone. He then passed it to Owen Reith who was positioned between the two faceoff dots and he wired a snapshot that beat Dragons’ Goaltender Hunter Virostek over his right shoulder only 56 seconds into the 1st Overtime period.
Reith who had previous Playoff experience with the Fort McMurray Oil Barons last year scored his 1st career AJHL Playoff goal. Excited with the goal Reith said, “It feels great. We worked hard, both teams worked hard all game and thankfully I got a lucky chance in the slot and I was able to put it in the back of the net. It was a big moment.”
The Eagles started out the game strong, by the midway point of the 1st period, they were outshooting the Dragons by a count of 12-3. But unfortunately, the Eagles could not buy a goal and it was the hometown Dragons who scored first as Forward Markus Broguslavsky fired a slap shot that eluded Eagles’ goalie Thomas Davis at 17:27. The Dragons lead 1-0 at the end of the 1st period. In the 2nd period, both teams had good chances, but the period ended up scoreless.
In the 3rd period, the Eagles were finally able to solve Virostek when the Eagles were a man short, as Forward Quinton Ong was able to get the puck, go on a breakaway and beat Virostek with a wrist shot on his glove side to tie the game 1-1 at 8:24. The final shots on goal were 25-24 in favour of the Eagles.
“I thought we came out really well and played a great 1st period,” said Eagles Head Coach and General Manager Andrew Milne. “I thought we didn’t waiver, we had 2 disallowed goals called back, which at times can really rattle a group, but I thought our guys responded well. We did a good job there. Then we stuck to the game plan. 60+ minutes. We told our guys this would not be easy, we wouldn’t be able to come here and win easily. We would have to play as long we could and I thought tonight we were good in a lot of areas.”
One area that was a big struggle during the regular season, but that the Eagles did well with Thursday night was discipline. The Eagles only took 2 minor penalties, while the Dragons took 3 minor penalties.
It was Thomas Davis who got the nod between the pipes. The 20-year-old netminder had a great game as he stopped 24 of the 25 shots he faced.
“Tommy is a battler, he’s a warrior, he’s a competitor, he’s a guy that competes hard,” said Coach Milne. “He knew that he had to be good and I thought he was really good tonight. He’s an experienced goaltender, that’s the advantage we have in these players.”
Game 2 goes Friday night back at the Drumheller Memorial Arena at 7:30 pm, before the series switches to the Canmore Recreation Centre for Game 3 on Sunday afternoon at 2 pm.
Coach Milne expects a big push back from the Dragons in Game 2 saying, “They’re a good team, they will respond. I liked their game [Thursday night]. They were 1 shot away from winning this one, so I think they’re gonna feel good about their game because they played well, they had chances, they hit crossbars just like we did, so I think they are going to be feeling good and I expect the exact same game tomorrow.”
EAGLES FUN FACTS:
– It was the Eagles’ 1st playoff game that went to Overtime since March 12 2017, when they lost 4-3 to the Olds Grizzlys. The Eagles’ last Playoff Overtime win was on March 9, 2014, when they defeated the Camrose Kodiaks 3-2.
– It is the 3rd time that Eagles Coach Andrew Milne and Dragons’ Coach Kevin Hasselberg are going head-to-head in the playoffs. When Hasselberg was the Coach of the Olds Grizzlys, the 2 met in the 1st Round in the Playoffs in 2008 and 2010. And just like tonight, Game 1 of those series went to Overtime with the Grizzlys winning the game in 3rd Overtime in 2008 and the Eagles won in 2nd Overtime in 2010. In both instances, the team that won Game 1 also won the series in a sweep.