Opening weekend win slips away

Opening weekend win slips away

The Canmore Eagles took on the Okotoks Oilers for a weekend doubleheader to open both team’s Alberta Junior Hockey League campaigns. The Oilers won 5-1 in Canmore on Friday (Sept. 15) and 5-4 via the shootout in Okotoks on Saturday (Sept. 16).

Oilers 5 at Eagles 1

It was a full house at the Canmore Recreation Centre with an announced attendance of 728 taking in the season-opening party that began in the parking lot well before game time. The mood was all upbeat for Eagles’ fans as they looked to cheer on the home team’s start to a new season.

Inside the building, when the puck was finally dropped to start the season, it didn’t take the Oilers long to dampen the spirits of the Eagles’ faithful, taking the lead just 64 seconds into the game and holding a 3-0 lead by the end of the first period. Jagger Tapper scored the first Okotoks’ goal followed by Sam Huck and Dean Spak.

Okotoks extended its lead to 4-0 with a second-period goal by Connor Gourley.

Owen Jones would score the first Canmore goal this season, tipping in a Casey Black point shot for a power-play marker at 13:53 of the third period. The Canmore native was fourth in team scoring last season with 19 goals and 37 points, which is tops among all returning Eagles’ players for this new campaign.

The Oilers’ Colton Alexander would restore his team’s four-goal lead just 40 seconds later.

Okotoks outshot Canmore 47-23 with Matthew Malin in goal for the Eagles and Shane Shelest between the pipes for the Oilers.

Each team had eight power plays in the contest with Canmore recording the lone man-advantage goal.

Eagles 4 at Oilers 5 (SO)

The following night, Canmore headed to Okotoks for the Oilers’ home opener and looked poised to grab the win only to have it slip away in the end.

Okotoks jumped out to an early 2-0 in the first period on goals by Hunter Sawka and then Kade Duell on the power play.

The Eagles’ defence got offensive to help the team take a 3-2 lead. Brody Tallman would score twice and Brody Mortensen the other goal.

Tallman’s first goal was a power-play marker that saw his soft slider bank off an Oilers player’s skate and come to rest in the open side of the goal at 18:01 of the first period. The 20-year-old senior leader on the blue line than tied the game at 13:04 of the second period when he snuck in behind the Oilers’ defence, received a breakaway pass from Cole Wirun and fired a wrist shot off the blocker of Shelest that sailed into the goal.

Mortensen gave the Eagles the lead just 47 second later when his point shot found its way through a crowd in front of the goal and past the screened Okotoks’ goaltender.

Gourley would get Okotoks back on even terms before the period ended.

Canmore took the lead once more at 7:55 of the third period. Jones carrying the puck out of his zone fed a crisp pass to Tyler Loughman on the left wing with the second-year winger bursting past an Oilers’ defender along the boards then busting towards the net and firing the puck high, far side to give the Eagles a 4-3 lead.

That lead looked poised to give Canmore the victory until an unfortunate series of bounces in front of the Eagles’ goal led to the puck landing on the stick of unmarked Brett Huxley, whose shot tied the game with 61 seconds left.

The two teams then duelled through a scoreless five-minute, 3-on-3 overtime. It took an extended shootout to decide a winner. Each team scored once in the first three rounds with Sawka scoring on the Oilers’ first shot and Wirun on the Eagles’ second shot. It would then be Rylan Brown’s effort in the sixth round that gave the Oilers’ the victory as he stickhandled his way in and flipped a forehand shot just past the stretched out right leg of rookie Canmore goaltender John MacPherson, who was excellent in his AJHL debut.

Okotoks outshot Canmore 36-19 while the Eagles were 1-for-6 on the power play and the Oilers were 1-for-4.

Canmore has seven days to prepare for their next outing, taking on the Calgary Canucks – who lost both their weekend games – on Sunday (Sept. 24) in the Ken Bracko Arena at the Max Bell Centre, with a 5 p.m. start time. The Eagles’ next home game is Tuesday, Sept. 26 when they host the Spruce Grove Saints, 7 p.m. at the Canmore Recreation Centre.