Goaltending, power play leads to rare weekend sweep
The Canmore Eagles erased a cold September with a hot start to October posting a trio of Alberta Junior Hockey League wins on the much dreaded three games in three days road trip weekend.
After a month that saw the team post just one regulation win, four regulation losses and one shootout defeat, the trip north gave Canmore a much-needed lift. The last time the Eagles posted three wins on a three-day road trip came 11 seasons ago, Oct. 19-21, 2012.
The Eagles, now 4-4-0-1, are into a month that features 11 games, including two three-games-in-three-days trips to the north of the province— the first being this past weekend to the eastern side of Alberta on Friday through Sunday (Oct. 6-8). The next will come later this month.
Goaltending played a large role in the Eagles’ success with Matthew Malin tending the net for Friday’s 4-3 win over the Bonnyville Pontiacs and Sunday’s 3-2 victory over the Camrose Kodiaks. He stopped 69 of 74 shots to see his seasonal save percentage improve to .915, while the San Francisco, Calif. native’s goals-against average decreased to 3.29. John MacPherson stopped 46 of 50 shots in Saturday’s 5-4 triumph over the Lloydminster Bobcats.
The 12 goals in the three games equalled the team’s total from their first six games of this season with defence Brody Tallman scoring twice in the win over the Kodiaks to lead all Eagles with five goals on the season. Six of the goals came via the power play on 16 chances – a conversion rate of 37.5%.
Eagles 4 at Pontiacs 3
Josh Hoekstra’s first goal as a member of the Canmore Eagles with less than four minutes to play gave his new team a much-needed morale boost after it had suffered two deflating defeats at the recently completed AJHL Showcase held in Calgary.
Tyler Loughman opened the scoring just 31 seconds into the contest with his third goal of the season. The St. Louis, Missouri native collected a cross-crease pass from Owen Jones and had two whacks at the puck standing unmarked just off the left-wing post.
Bonnyville would answer on goals from Jack McAra and Billy Batten to take a 2-1 lead into the first break.
Brody Mortensen would put the Eagles back on even terms with the lone middle-period marker. The second-year defenceman saw his long wrist shot from the left wing weave its way through a crowd in front of the goal at 6:48. His second goal this campaign, which came on the power play, tied his season total from 58 games in 2022-23.
Logan Ziegler gave Canmore the lead again 1:23 into the third period. Leading a 3-on-1 power-play rush, the 19-year-old forward, carrying the puck down the right wing, saw his initial shot saved with the rebound going to Carter Rimstad, who also saw his shot stopped but that rebound would go to Ziegler, who made no mistake on his second chance.
Max Sequin would counter for Bonnyville at 14:22.
It was then time for Hoekstra to weave a piece of magic coming in off the left wing. Emanuel Hudson, who in the first period was dinged for the game’s first three minor penalties, with one of those accounting for the Pontiacs’ go-ahead goal late in the opening frame, atoned himself with a perfect cross-ice pass after clearing the puck from his defensive zone. Hoekstra, playing in his third game for the Eagles after four seasons with the Western Hockey League’s Moose Jaw Warriors, was wide open along the left boards, and moving toward the net fired a wrist shot high, hard and far side from just below the face-off dot for the game winner.
Canmore would finish 2-for-6 on the power play while Bonnyville was 1-for-7.
Bonnyville outshot Canmore 37-31 with Bodee Weiss in goal for the Pontiacs.
Eagles 5 at Bobcats 4
Canmore exploded for four goals in the second period and held on through a scoreless third period to snatch victory in Lloydminster.
MacPherson, last year’s Saskatchewan U18 goaltender of the year has had some early season teething pains adapting to the junior game but his fourth appearance in an Eagles’ uniform showed the Martensville, Sask. native has a promising future at the U20 level.
Canmore scoring came from five different players.
Ziegler would score the Eagles’ first goal, tying the game 1-1 at 14:23 of the first period following a goal by the Bobcats’ Luke Fritz just 3:13 into the contest. Ziegler’s third goal of the campaign came just 12 seconds into the first of just two power plays this game for the Eagles. A wrist shot from the top of the right-wing, face-off circle would fly just over the right pad of Bobcats goaltender Jack Solomon.
Canmore would jump out to a 4-1 lead in the second frame on three goals in the opening 7:20 of the period. Rhett Dekowny would score his first goal of the season at 2:57 when he pounced on a rebound right at the top of the goal crease and wrapped it around Solomon who was recovering from a save off a point shot by Hudson. Just 36 seconds later, Haruki Morikawa scored his first junior goal. The Banff native pounced on a loose puck in the low slot, as both Bobcat defenders closed on Bryson Insinger, with his shot going between the pads of Solomon. Almost four minutes later, the Eagles stretched that lead when Wirun opened his scoring account this season. The Lethbridge native, who missed 43 games last campaign with a broken femur, found himself unchecked directly in front of goal, and a quick left-to-right move gave him an open net.
Lloydminster would rally on goals by Ben Aucoin and Blake Settler to get back within one goal. The goals came 40 seconds apart and just over two minutes after the Eagles had opened their sizeable lead.
Zach Coutu would score the game winner at 11:50 of the middle period. Zach Coutu, one of five rookies from the Edmonton Junior Oilers – including his twin brother Carter – picked up a loose puck in front of the Lloydminster goal and after a clockwise spin wrapped the puck inside the left-wing post.
Teague McAllistar would make it a one-goal difference at 13:43. It would also be the end of the scoring this night as both goaltenders would take centre spotlight the rest of the contest. Lloydminster outshot Canmore 50-35.
While Canmore went 1-for-2 on the power play, Lloydminster finished 1-for-6.
Eagles 3 at Kodiaks 2
Two third-period, power-play goals by Tallman helped Canmore complete a perfect weekend – and gave the Eagles their first three-game winning streak since Dec. 18, 2021 to Jan. 1, 2022.
Zach Coutu opened the scoring at 16 minutes of the first period. His fourth goal of the season and second in as many games came on the power play. Ziegler took the original shot from the left point with the puck hitting Kodiaks goaltender Charlie Zolin in the mask and rebounding to Coutu, who was standing at the inside hash marks of the right-wing, face-off circle, from where he quickly dispatched the puck into the open side of the net. It would be the only goal over the first 40 minutes.
Tallman then scored two power-play goals in the opening 5:43 of the third period to give the Eagles a 3-0 lead. The first goal came at 1:32. The 20-year-old was at the end of a long shift when he fired the puck on goal from the middle of the ice well out from goal that was tipped by a Kodiak defender to get past Zolin. Tallman’s second goal was a long wrister from the top of the right-wing, face-off circle that settled in the top, far corner of the net.
Camrose would rally to make it a one-goal deficit on goals by Owen Lansing at 12:29 and Garrett Thom at 18:10 with the team having pulled its goaltender for an extra attacker.
Camrose outshot Canmore 37-24.
On the power play, Canmore went 3-for-8 while Camrose was 0-for-6.
The three wins in three days road trip equalled the feat in 2012 when Canmore defeated Bonnyville 5-2 on Oct. 19, Lloydminster 3-1 on Oct. 20, and the Drumheller Dragons 5-2 on Oct. 21.
Canmore is back on home ice on Thursday (Oct. 12) hosting the Grande Prairie Storm, 7 p.m. at the Canmore Recreation Centre. It will be the third game of a four-game rroad trip in Alberta’s south for the Storm, who are in Okotoks on Monday (Oct. 9), Calgary on Tuesday (Oct. 10), and finish up the week in Drumheller on Friday (Oct. 13).
For the Eagles, the week ahead also includes games against the Bulldogs in Blackfalds on Friday, 7 p.m. at the Eagle Builders Centre, and then hosting the Whitecourt Wolverines on Sunday (Oct. 15), 2 p.m. at the Canmore Recreation Centre.