RMO: Eagles survive rough November in battle for playoff spot

The Canmore Eagles have a bone to pick with T.S. Eliot.

April is the cruelest month in the seminal work of modern poetry The Waste Land, but for the local junior A squad, that title goes to November.

The Eagles went 3-8 through the eleventh month, putting the team a mere three points out of the Southern division basement and now in a battle for a playoff spot with a 12-15-1 record.

On Friday (Nov. 24), it was the Whitecourt Wolverine’s turn to prey upon the Eagles at Alex Kaleta Arena.
Even though the home squad battled, they were still shut out 2-0 by the powerhouse Wolverines.

Eagles head coach and general manager Andrew Milne thought his team was strong, but not full value against Whitecourt.
“I thought 80 per cent of our guys were good tonight,” Milne said. “But when you’re playing a veteran team, a deep team – one I think is one of the best in the league, 80 per cent isn’t going to be enough against them.”

Eagles goaltender Thomas Davis was solid, allowing two goals on 25 shots, but Wolverines goaltender Xavier Potvin was perfect.

Milne is accentuating the positive through this tough stretch, heaping praise on his defence and goaltenders. But he wants more scoring.

“We had chances. We could have won the game, but we didn’t capitalize,” Milne said. “We’ve gotta score. I thought Alex Young was just OK (Friday). He’s 16, playing against 20 year olds. There is definitely a separation in age. But we need to be better.”

Adamu Tanaka looked dangerous for the second game in a row, while Daly Hamilton was solid. Milne also praised his fourth line, but said the only way the Eagles will improve is to work hard through the tough stretch. Younger players need to learn how to get through the grind, he said.

“It’s a hard process. We took it lighter this week. With Alex, we are seeing fatigue set in … to re-energize him is important. Max Giangualano has improved over the weeks, where he’s gotten more ice time. It’s time management inside and outside the game. November is always tough. When we get to December the energy kicks up. That’s the goal.”

Despite the bright lights against one of the league powerhouses, the Eagles struggled the next night on the road against the lowly Olds Grizzlys – a team two points behind the Eagles in the standings.

The Eagles fell behind in the second period 2-0, but battled back to tie the game 3-3 with just over five minutes remaining in the game. Trevor Van Steinburg, Ty Budai and Giangualano all scored in the effort.

But with Geoffrey Fizet in the penalty box, the Grizzlys regained the lead then added an empty net goal to seal the win.
The Eagles did manage a win Tuesday (Nov. 28), defeating the Calgary Mustangs 4-1. The Eagles’ offence broke free with 50 shots on net – 19 in the second period alone – to dispose of the Mustangs. Travis Verveda and newcomer Carson Romeril both had two goals, while Alex Young picked up three assists in the win.

The Eagles start December with three home games in a row. The pesky Camrose Kodiaks, who currently sit last in the AJHL southern division, are in town Friday and Saturday, while Okotoks is in town Dec. 5.


For more from Justin Brisbane at the Rocky Mountain Outlook click here.

Photo by Aryn Toombs