PHOTO: Brett Radford scored the game-winning goal with under four minutes to play to give the Eagles an important 2-1 road victory in Drayton Valley on Sunday afternoon. – File photo courtesy of Pam Doyle
The Canmore Eagles took a giant step in the direction of securing home ice advantage for the first round of their upcoming AJHL playoffs on Sunday afternoon as they defeated the Drayton Valley Thunder 2-1 before 583 fans in Drayton Valley.
After absorbing identical 6-3 road loses to both the Camrose Kodiaks and Spruce Grove Saints on Friday and Saturday nights respectively, the Eagles came up with an inspired performance to win their final game of their three game weekend road trip.
The victory keeps the Eagles (25-27-6) in fourth-place in the AJHL Southern Division standings with 56 points, three points up on the fifth-place Drumheller Dragons. Both the Eagles and the Dragons have just two games remaining on their regular season schedule.
The Dragons and the Eagles are confirmed to meet each other in the opening round, best-of-five playoff series, but home ice advantage has yet to be determined.
The Eagles can clinch home-ice advantage by winning either one of their last two remaining home games or if the Dragons lose one of their two remaining games.
Canmore will host the Olds Grizzlys on Tuesday, March 1 and the Dragons on Friday, March 4. The Dragons will then wrap up their season against the Camrose Kodiaks at home on Saturday night.
In Sunday afternoon’s key victory in Drayton Valley, Brett Radford scored his 22nd goal of the season on the powerplay with just under four minutes remaining in regulation time to give the Eagles a 2-1 lead. Defenceman Jonas Gordon got the other Eagle goal, his second of the year while veteran defenceman Braiden Doucette contributed assists on both Eagle goals. Canmore goaltender Ryan Bontorin was solid throughout the game stopping all but one of the 41 Thunder shots fired his way as the Eagles were outshot 41-32.
“I thought our team showed great character this weekend,” said Eagles Head Coach and General Manager Andrew Milne following Sunday’s win. “We knew today wasn't going to be easy but our guys played simple and they took what they gave us. Bontorin was solid in the nets when he needed to be. Our go to guys were all on this weekend and led the team the right way. Now we just have to win one of our next 2 home games to secure home ice. “
The Eagles remaining two home games are as follows:
OLDS GRIZZLYS (16-38-3) at CANMORE (25-27-6) – Tuesday, March 1 – 7 PM
With the AJHL playoffs looming, the Olds Grizzlys lies will come to Canmore on Tuesday night with two things in mind.
If they can beat the Eagles, they would effectively put an end their current 15-game losing streak and also play the spoiler role to the Eagles chances of securing a fourth-place finish and home ice advantage for the first-round of the upcoming AJHL playoffs.
Despite their losing record of late, the Eagles can’t afford to take Olds lightly as the Grizzlys have defeated the Eagles twice this season by scores of 7-2 and 4-3 (OT). The Eagles won the remaining three games by scores of 5-3, 4-2 and 6-4.
The Grizzlys lineup also features the top two AJHL scoring leaders as Wyatt Noskey sits in first-place with 75 points and rookie Chase Olsen is just one point behind at 74. Canmore’s Matt Forchuk is in fourth-place with 71 points and line-mate Logan Ferguson is in fifth spot with 69 points.
DRUMHELLER DRAGONS (24-29-5) at CANMORE – Friday, March 4 – 7 PM
This will be the Eagles final regular season game and, pending Tuesday night’s results, it might come down to Game 60 for Canmore to secure a fourth-place finish in the Southern Division standings and home ice advantage for the first round of the playoffs.
With home-ice advantage potentially on the line for both teams and their last opportunity to leave an impression before their playoff series begins, the game should be highly entertaining.
The Eagles will be playing their fifth game in eight nights, while the Dragons come to Canmore fresh off a seven day rest after defeating the Calgary Mustangs 3-2 in Drumheller on Friday Feb. 26.
In their first five meetings this season, the Dragons have won three games by 5-3, 7-6 and 6-3 scores, while the Eagles have won twice by scores of 6-3 and 3-1.
NOTEBOOK: There will be a re-draw for the Calgary Flames Road Trip Raffle during the first intermission of Tuesday’s home game against the Olds Grizzlys. . . .The semi-finals of the Can-Bow Motors Las Vegas Shoot-out will also continue during the first and second intermissions. The top 3 shooters from all the semi-finals will compete at the “winner take all” final shoot-out during Friday’s home game. . . . The Eagles will be holding their 21st Annual Award’s Dinner at the Cornerstone Theatre on Saturday, March 5. Dinner tickets are just $50 and are available in the Eagles Nest Lounge during the next two home games. Everyone is welcome to attend.