The Canmore Eagles' special teams have been especially good of late and Tuesday night went three better.
Taking on the Drumheller Dragons, the Eagles recorded a hat trick of shorthanded goals in the second period on the way to a 6-4 Alberta Junior Hockey League victory before 395 fans at the Canmore Recreation Centre.
Eagles captain Coy Prevost scored two of the shorthanded goals — at 17 seconds and 19:12 of the second period.
“It was just a couple of good breaks that hopefully helped us win the game,” said Prevost, who now has a team-leading 17 goals and 38 points on the season to move up to eighth in AJHL scoring.
The other shorthanded goal came from Quinton Ong (12 goals this season), at 59 seconds of the middle period.
Other Canmore goals came from Tian Rask (8), Trevor Van Steinburg (6), both in the first period, and Max Giangualano (7) into an empty net with 69 seconds to play in the third period.
Drumheller goals came from Tyler Kreklewich (11), in the first period, Brett Edwards (16) and Brayden Nicholetts (9), in the second period, and Andrew Kartusch (6), in the third period.
Drumheller outshot Canmore 39-35 with Thomas Davis (10-15, 3.77 GAA) in goal for the Eagles and Hunter Virostek (14-12, 2.95 GAA) in goal for the Dragons.
The penalty kill has been especially strong in recent times, with opposition teams scoring just two goals, including Kartusch’s goal on Tuesday, in the past 10 games — or 42 man-advantage situations.
“I think it just speaks volumes for Coy, our captain, the way he played last game [two goals and two assists in a 4-2 win over the Lloydminster Bobcats on Saturday] and the way he was able to work it tonight to give us opportunities to win it”, said Milne, Eagles GM and head coach.
The Eagles now boast the third-best penalty kill in the AJHL at 85.70 per cent — 95.2 per cent in the past 10 games. Over that same number of games, the Eagles shorthanded teams have outscored opposition power plays 3-2.
It is the first time that anyone associated with the team can recall the Eagles scoring three shorthanded goals in one game — and it is the first shorthanded goals of the season for a team that registered 11 such goals last season.
The power play continues to be no slouch either with a league-leading 42 goals. Of course, it helps that opposition teams continue to afford the Eagles plenty of opportunity — a league-leading 207 chances at the break, which is 19 more than the next best team, the Calgary Mustangs.
Canmore finished the 2017 portion of its schedule with a 17-17-2 record after winning five of eight games in December, including its last three all played on home ice. The Eagles are in fifth place in the South and at 36 points are just one win off third place, occupied by Drumheller (18-16-2).
“To win three in a row is huge in the standings going into the Christmas break,” said Milne. “It’s real nice to see our guys rewarded for their efforts.
“We have played 36 games and some of our guys only played 30 all of last season. We will be looking at this break to re-energize our guys”
The Okotoks Oilers (28-5-2) occupy top spot in the South — and have the best record in the AJHL — with Brooks Bandits (24-10-1) second, Calgary Mustangs (17-17-3) fourth, Calgary Canucks (16-19-1) sixth, Camrose Kodiaks (12-16-8) seventh and Olds Grizzlys (14-21-1) in the basement.
Now though it’s time to take a break and enjoy the holidays with family and friends.
“It’s a chance to just mentally step back for a bit. Playing 60 games … it’s pretty tough, you do get guys banged up — and we have a couple of guys that are hurt,” said Prevost, who can be counted among that group as he works through knee and shoulder issues.
“A lot of guys are going to be coming back with a lot of confidence, especially a lot of the young guys and that’s definitely what we are looking for … the fact that they can help out the team in bigger aspects is huge for us.”
Following the Christmas break, the Eagles’ season resumes with two games against the Bandits, Dec. 30 in Canmore (Rec Centre, 7 p.m.) and New Year’s Day in Brooks (Centennial Regional Arena, 4 p.m.).
EAGLES NEST: In the essence of full disclosure, Canmore has given up four shorthanded goals, about average in the league if you don’t include the Old Grizzlys, who have allowed 16 shorthanded goals this season, the only team in double figures in that department and more than twice as many as any other team. … Both teams went 1-for-3 on the power play in Tuesday’s game which featured just six minor penalties. … Grande Prairie Storm’s Justin Bernier is the league’s top scorer with 51 points (20G-31A) and was named the Canadian Junior Hockey League first star for December. … Canmorite Jacob Bernard-Docker (Okotoks Oilers) was a member of the Canada West team which won gold at the recently completed World Junior Challenge, and has been named to the West team for the CJHL Prospects Game to be played Jan. 23 in Mississauga, Ont. … The Eagles entered the 2016 Christmas break at 23-13-1 on the way to finishing second in the South Division last season.