From the Crag: Eagles win! Losing streak ends

Oh, it is good to be Young — as in Colton and Alex.

Colton Young set up Alex Young for three goals — including the overtime winner — as the Canmore Eagles defeated the Calgary Mustangs 4-3 in a Family Day matinee.

Canmore came into their Alberta Junior Hockey League clash Monday at the Canmore Recreation Centre losers of 10 in a row but would not be denied in an afternoon contest played before 556 fans. And it was a sibling connection that finally sloughed the weight off the Eagles.

“That is a huge weight off their shoulders to get rewarded for what I thought was a pretty good effort for the majority of the month and no result,” said Eagles GM and head coach Andrew Milne.

“We were in so many one-goal games the whole time. We kind of knew it was going to come down to something like this, and we finally won a one-goal game,” said Colton Young.

Colton and Alex, who both played their minor hockey in Calgary and came up through the Calgary Royals midget program but at different times, only found out they would be linemates for the first time just before puck drop — it looked like they had been playing together their entire lives.

“I really liked playing with him,” said Colton Young, who at 19 years old is the elder by two years and one day short of seven months. “It’s always been a dream of mine for us to play on the same team and now on the same line. He ended up putting three in, so it was pretty good.”

Alex Young was complimentary towards his brother when it came to each of his goals on Monday.

“My brother was a huge part of it,” said the rookie forward, who is still 16 years old. “I felt good in the warmup and the first few shifts were nice and it continued throughout the game.”

Part of their pairing came as a result of necessity. The Eagles needed to juggle the forward lines to put captain Trevor Van Steinburg back on defence with Adamu Tanaka sidelined for an indeterminate amount of time. Tanaka was hit hard into an open players’ bench gate in Friday’s game, missed Saturday’s contest and was on crutches for Monday’s clash with a sore leg and knee from crashing heavily into the immovable support.

Milne said the coaching staff had talked about putting the brothers together but never implemented the move before Monday’s game.

“It is something we have being talking a lot about, but we felt we needed to bid them some time,” said Milne. “I knew those two would be excited to play together.”

Alex Young said playing a regular shift alongside his older brother was a bit of an eye-opener.

“It was really nice. He makes a lot of good plays and he is really fast,” noted Alex Young. “Breaking out of our zone, it is a little tough keeping up with him. I just tried to go to the net, knowing the pucks will be there, and put them in. It worked well today.”

The three-goal performance gives Alex Young 16 tallies on the season, but you have check back through the previous 14 games to find the details of his previous three goals. He was named the AJHL player-of-the-month for October when he registered 14 points (6 goals and 8 assists) in nine games. That month the Eagles won six of nine games and were sitting comfortably in fourth in the South Division at month’s end.

Yes, they have played together at times over the course of the season, usually during transitions while play is unfolding and on the power play, but this was the first time they started out in a game as regular linemates. It is something Milne is now keen on continuing with on Friday when the Eagles are in Calgary to take on the Canucks (7 p.m., Max Bell Centre).

“Absolutely,” asserted Milne.

Also scoring for Canmore was Quinton Ong (17 goals this season).

The Mustangs’ goals came from Daniel Rybarik (24), Chase Miller (18) and Liam Freeborn (10).

Canmore outshot the Mustangs 30-27 with Logan Dyck (8-11, 3.23 GAA)in goal for the Eagles and Joey May (8-15, 3.84) in goal for the visitors.

The Eagles got behind quickly in this game. Rybarik scored just eight seconds into the contest.

“Talk about adversity. Eight seconds in and we are down by one already,” said Milne. “We had to respond from that. It was a character win for the guys and those are the things we are trying to build on in trying to point the guys in the right direction.”

Alex Young would score his first at 11:31.

“That first one was a weird goal. The puck was sitting on top of the net and got popped up and I just waited for it to come down below the bar and I knocked it in,” said Alex Young. It would be Colton Young’s quick thinking, hitting the back of the net with his stick as the puck bounced on top that created the goal-scoring opportunity.

In the second period, Miller would give the Mustangs a 2-1 lead with a power-play goal at 16:32.

In the third period, Ong at 2:52 and Alex Young at 5:22 would put the Eagles in front.

Alex Young's second goal was the result of his older brother not giving up on his own failed scoring play.

“I think the goalie poked it from him and it went to the corner and he threw it back to the front. I just saw the empty net … it was a gift,” said Alex Young.

Freeborn would make it a 3-3 game at 10:46.

Having fought back from two one-goal deficits only to see the visitors strike back to tie the game didn’t deflate the Eagles this time around, with the players rallying on the bench.

“We were fed up with losing. We had to win this one. Our backs were against the wall. We needed a win to end this streak. We all felt we were going to win it,” said Colton Young.

The Young brothers started the 3-on-3 session and after taking a quick breather on the bench were back out for a second shift when they combined on a two-on-two rush for the winning goal at 2:46 of the overtime period.

“(Colton) saw me coming up and it was a nice play by my brother,” said Alex Young. “I had to do a little bit of work, there were a couple of guys there but I just chopped at it and put it over the goalie.”

The goal elicited a wild on-ice celebration.

“Like we won the RBC [the junior A national championship] is what it felt like,” said Van Steinburg. “Obviously, we are very happy with that win and the way we got it.”

Canmore now has 20 wins on the season through 56 games — which include 34 regulation time losses and two overtime/shootout defeats — and moved six points clear of the Olds Grizzlys (16-35-4) for the final playoff spot in the South Division.

The victory also means any Canmore win or Olds loss over the final two weeks of the regular season ensures the Eagles will advance to the post-season tournament, and a first-round, best-of-five date with the Brooks Bandits (42-12-1).

The Eagles and Grizzlys will play each other on Saturday in Olds (7 p.m., Olds Sportsplex). Before that game though, the Grizzlys have to contend with the first-place Oilers in Okotoks on Friday.

EAGLES NEST: Canmore was 0-for-2 on the power play while the Mustangs went 1-for-5. … The Eagles brought up 6-foot-1, 18-year-old defenceman Luke Jensen (Airdrie UFA Bisons midget AAA) to take a regular shift on defence. With the Bisons’ season over, it is expected Jensen will see some more game time with the junior A club over the coming weeks. … Canmore has four regular-season games remaining including two games with the Okotoks Oilers: Thursday, March 1 in Canmore (7 p.m., Canmore Recreation Centre) and Sunday, March 4 in Okotoks (4:15 p.m., Pason Centennial Arena).