PHOTO – Camrose goaltender Devin McDonald has led his team to three straight victories over the Eagles this year. (Julie Wilson photo)
UPCOMING HOME GAMES
Friday, Jan. 31 – Camrose Kodiaks – 7 PM
Saturday, Feb. 1 – Camrose Kodiaks – 7 PM
With home-ice advantage for the upcoming Alberta Junior Hockey League playoffs possibly on the line, this weekend’s double-header home series against the visiting Camrose Kodiaks looms extremely large for the Canmore Eagles hockey club.
With just 12 games remaining on the AJHL’s regular season schedule, the Brooks Bandits (69 pts) look poised to claim another Southern Division first-place finish and a first-round playoff bye. The battle for playoff positions #2 through #5 is where things get very interesting.
The Drumheller Dragons currently occupy second-place with 61 pts, while the Okotoks Oilers are in third-place with 59 pts, the Canmore Eagles are in fourth-place with 57 points and Kodiaks are in fifth-place with 55 pts. With just six points separating second-place from fifth-place, one of these four teams will end the season in fifth-place, or possibly worse, and face the inevitable task of playing the first two games of their opening-round “best-of-five” playoff series on the road.
While Canmore has enjoyed great success against every other Southern Division club this season, defeating each team at least twice, the Kodiaks are the exception as they have defeated the Eagles three straight times.
The two teams clashed in Camrose for a pair of games on the November 23-24 weekend with the Kodiaks dropping the Eagles 3-0 in the opening game and earning a 2-1 overtime shoot-out victory the following day. In their only game played in Canmore on December 20, the Kodiaks once again came out on top with a 3-2 overtime shoot-out victory.
If there is one over-riding reason for the Kodiak’s success over the Eagles, it is the outstanding play of Camrose goaltender Devin McDonald. The 19-year-old Calgary Flame Midget AAA graduate has won all three starts against the Eagles and has allowed just three goals overall on 98 Eagle shots. He was also rightfully named the Kodiak’s “Star of the Game” in two of the three games.
“Despite our record, we’ve played pretty well against Camrose this season, but luck just hasn’t been on our side,” said Eagle’s Head Coach and General Manager Andrew Milne, whose club is an impressive 18-5-1 on home ice. “We’ve had a ton of good chances to score against them and could have easily won two of the three games, but their goaltending has been exceptional when the game has been on the line. We need to find a way to break through and score some gritty, greasy goals.
“But we’ve been playing very well at home this year, so we hopefully we can focus on the task at hand and take advantage of playing in our rink,” said Milne. “Home ice advantage in the playoffs is our goal, but we have to go out and earn it starting this weekend.”
Both games start at 7 PM at the Canmore Recreation Centre.
NOTEBOOK: In their three games against the Kodiaks this season, Canmore’s powerplay has clicked for just one goal in 17 opportunities. . . Eagle defenceman Trey Phillips has a league leading 10-game point streak going and has registered 17 points in those 10 games. Phillips also leads the entire AJHL in scoring by a d-man with 50 points. . . Eagle’s forward Connor Wilson is also riding an eight-game point streak . . . The Kodiaks come into Canmore red-hot sporting a 18-4-5 record in their last 27 games.