Photo Credit Sei Spo Press
Playoffs on the horizon: Eagles vs Dragons
The Canmore Eagles will take on the Drumheller Dragons in the first round of the Alberta Junior Hockey League playoffs after a surprising final weekend to the regular season.
Canmore, at 24-32-2-2, finished in sixth place in the South Division. The Eagles split their final two games, losing 5-2 to the Bulldogs in Blackfalds on Friday and defeating the Kodiaks 3-2 in a shootout in Camrose on Saturday.
The weekend games featured the return of Cole Wirun, who missed 42 games as he recovered from a broken femur suffered Oct. 26. The 2004-born forward picked up an assist in Friday’s game and had the only goal in a five-round shootout victory on Saturday.
On Friday in Blackfalds, the Eagles and Bulldogs were knotted at 2-2, with the home side scoring twice in the second period and once more in the third period to take the two points and sweep the six-game season series.
Canmore goals came from Kai Billey (5th of the season) and Emanuel Hudson (3). For Blackfalds, Tyler Wallace scored twice to get to 40 goals on the season – he would finish the season with a league-best 42 goals – with Jason Siedem, Brandan Ross and Layne Loomer rounding out the goal scorers.
Blackfalds outshot Canmore 45-19 with Andreai Proctor-Ramirez in goal for the Eagles and Charlie Zolin in goal for the Bulldogs.
On the power play, Canmore was 1-for-4 and Blackfalds was 3-for-6.
On Saturday in Camrose, the Kodiaks fell behind twice but scrambled back to force overtime and the game-deciding shootout.
Vincent Scott (26) had the lone goal of the first period as Canmore took a 1-0 lead. Myles Gauld evened the score at 1-1 early in the second period, with Owen Jones (19) giving the Eagles a 2-1 lead midway through the frame. Nathan Sullivan then got the Kodiaks back on even terms midway through the third period.
After the 3-on-3 session failed to decide a winner, Camrose were forced into just their third shootout of the season, The Kodiaks had won their previous two while not allowing a goal. For Canmore, it was their seventh shootout of the season. Wirun’s goal gave the Eagles their fifth shootout victory.
Canmore outshot Camrose 26-23 with Matthew Malin between the posts for the Eagles and Liam Bechtold in goal for the Kodiaks.
On the power play, Canmore was 0-for-2 and Camrose was 1-for-3.
Camrose won the previous five games played against Canmore this season.
The South Division playoff bracket features the first-place Brooks Bandits (53-5-1-1) getting a first-round bye, while second-place Blackfalds (39-18-1-2) take on the seventh-place Calgary Canucks (19-32-6-3), third-place Drumheller (33-21-4-2) versus Canmore, and the fourth-place Okotoks Oilers (34-23-1-2) hooking up with fifth-place Camrose (27-30-2-1). The Olds Grizzlys (16-39-4-1) miss out on the post-season tournament for the second year running.
Heading into the penultimate weekend of the regular season, Okotoks, with four games remaining, enjoyed a five-point lead on the Drumheller, who had five games left to play. Drumheller would lose to Canmore 3-2 on Feb. 24 and Blackfalds 3-0 on Feb. 25. The Oilers though would lose twice to Brooks but still held a five-point lead with a home-and-home stand with Drumheller to end their season.
The Dragons began their final week with a 4-1 win over Calgary on Tuesday (Feb. 28) to move within three points of Okotoks, then stunningly won both games against the Oilers – 5-1 in Okotoks on Friday and a 5-3 in Drumheller on Saturday – to grab third place.
Over the final 11 games of the regular season dating back to the start of February, Drumheller posted six wins, four regulation-time losses and one overtime defeat but made up seven points to nip Okotoks – who went three wins and eight losses – by a single point. Third place ensures a second-round miss of Brooks, who will take on the lowest seed remaining after the first round is complete.
Drumheller though still has to beat Canmore to get to the second round. The Eagles won five of six games with the Dragons this season. The best-of-seven series opens at the Drumheller Memorial Arena on Friday (March 10) and Saturday (March 11). The series switches to the Canmore Recreation Centre on Tuesday (March 14) and Wednesday (March 15). If necessary, games are also set for Friday (March 17) in Drumheller, Sunday (March 19) in Canmore, and Tuesday (March 21) in Drumheller. Games times are 7 p.m. except for March 19 which will feature a 6 p.m. start.
In the North Division, the Spruce Grove Saints (49-7-2-2) earned the first-round bye, while the Whitecourt Wolverines (36-19-3-2) grabbed second place on the final day of the season and take on the seventh-place Grande Prairie Storm (19-33-5-3), the third-place Bonnyville Pontiacs (36-21-2-1) meet the sixth-place Lloydminster Bobcats (23-34-1-2), and the fourth-place Sherwood Park Crusaders (33-20-3-2) clash with the fifth-place Fort McMurray Oil Barons (24-26-6-4). The Drayton Valley Thunder (15-42-0-3) miss out on the playoffs.
Complete playoff schedules can be found at ajhl.ca.