There’s nothing more predictable than heading into a fist-fight with one hand tied up behind your back. You can try your best, perhaps get in a few shots, but ultimately, it’s not going to end well!
Such is the current predicament facing the Canmore Eagles as they enter the final stages of this year’s Alberta Junior Hockey League’s regular season schedule.
With five injured veteran players watching from the stands, and defenceman Alex Barnes ejected from the game in the first period, the shorthanded Eagles dropped their seventh consecutive game as the home-town Drumheller Dragons defeated the Eagles 5-3 before close to 900 fans on Friday night.
The loss effectively means that they Eagles will finish no higher than fifth-place in the AJHL standings and that they will open the 2013 playoffs on the road.
Canmore currently has 48 points in the Southern Division standings, just two points more than the sixth and seventh place Olds Grizzlys and Calgary Mustangs. The Eagles have six games remaining on the schedule, while both Olds and Calgary have five games remaining.
Canmore received powerplay goals from their scoring leaders Luke Simpson (22nd), Riley Point (13th) and Zack Rassell (24th), but couldn’t find any secondary scoring from the remainder of their lineup.
Eagle netminder Ty Swabb stopped 30 of 35 Drumheller shots and kept his team in the game with several outstanding saves.
“We battled hard, played with good structure, and the game could have easily gone our way,” said an ever optimistic Eagle’s Head Coach and General Manager Andrew Milne. “When you’re down on your confidence, short players and playing on the road, you need to have something go your way. I thought we earned our goals tonight and they didn’t. Their goals were more a result of our own breakdowns. Despite the loss, our guys should feel confident about their overall game and continue to play that way because once we get our injured players back, and if we play the same way, we are going to start winning some games again.”
There will be no rest for the hurting Eagles however as they are right back at it on Saturday night (Feb. 16) when they host the Okotoks Oilers (32-17-4) at the Canmore Recreation Centre. Game time is 7 PM. The Oilers, who have won a remarkable 16 straight games against the Eagles, are red-hot as they have won six games in a row, and are attempting to track down the Camrose Kodiaks for second-place in the Southern Division Standings. After last night’s 3-2 overtime victory over the Olds Grizzlys, the Oilers are just three points back of Camrose and enjoy three games in hand.
The Eagles will then wrap –up their “Holiday Weekend” with a must-win home game against the Olds Grizzlys (21-30-4) on Monday afternoon at 2:30 PM.
Monday’s matinee should be a highly entertaining game as both clubs are battling for the 5-7th place positions in the standings.  Playing Olds is never easy as the Grizzlys lead the AJHL in penalty minutes with 1,685 min. Canmore has amassed just 879 penalty minutes.
Immediately following Monday’s afternoon game, the Eagles are pleased to provide their fans with the opportunity to “Skate with the Eagles”. The game should end at approximately 4:45, they’ll flood the ice, and the Eagles will come back out for a social skate with the community. So bring your skates if you would like to participate and perhaps catch Coach Milne’s “eye for talent”.
NOTEBOOK – Eagle players Trey Phillips, Johnny Stevens, Steven Phee, Simon Philp and Nils Moser missed last night’s game with injuries. . . The Eagles will play five of their remaining six games at home, but have two games remaining against the nation’s #1 team – the Brooks Bandits. . .Eagle netminder Ty Swabb has been nominated for the AJHL’s “Top Goaltender” Award.