Called out for his play since returning from injury, Braden Saretsky answered in splendid fashion on Friday night.
Saretsky scored four goals as the Canmore Eagles thumped the Drayton Valley Thunder 7-2 in Alberta Junior Hockey League action before 402 fans at the Canmore Recreation Centre.
“I took advantage of some ice time and got lucky,” Saretsky said following the game. “It's good to get a game like this under you, especially if you have been struggling.”
A better than point-per-game player before a lower body injury shelved him for six games, the 20-year-old from West Kelowna, B.C. found himself on the fourth line to start Saturday's game after failing to impress the coaching staff in the first two games of his return.
“I thought he was really bad [Friday in the Eagles 6-5 shootout win over the Olds Grizzlys]. He knew he was bad. He heard about it. He didn't play in the third period (Friday) night. We had a big video session with him (Saturday) morning,” said Milne.
“He started the game on the fourth line, and the plan was to give him a couple of shifts to see if could get to where he needed to get to. That's kind of how the game works. He was good in the first two [shifts] then he got a break when Colby [Livingstone] went out and took full advantage of that break.”
Saretsky admits he wasn't good enough in the previous two games.
'I didn't have a very good game (Friday) night in Olds. Our line was minus-3 after two periods,” said Saretsky. “I knew I wasn't in a good position going into (Saturday's) game but I knew if I battled through it good things would happen.”
The second-year Eagle battled back in a big way against the Thunder after being pegged to fill in on the wing for Livingstone, who was forced to leave the game after taking an elbow to the head in the first period, putting him on a line with Matt Forchuk and Logan Ferguson.
“Once (Coach Milne) threw me with them, it's pretty easy to work with them. They both move the puck so well and get open for you and find you when you are open. As long as you can find some open space and get your stick on the ice, they will find you and you just have to tap the puck in,” said Saretsky.
Saretksy scored three goals in the second period and closed off the scoresheet with the game's final goal midway through the third period to give him 16 goals for the season and 31 points through 25 games played.
Also scoring for Canmore were Bryce Platt, with two goals for nine on the season, and Adam Tisdale (his 12th).
Forchuk retook the AJHL scoring lead with a five-assist game as he passed teammate Ferguson, who managed just three assists. Forchuk has 46 points (15 goals and 31 assists) while Ferguson has 45 points (18 goals and 27 assists).
Platt also finished with three points, picking up an assist on Saretsky's first goal.
Drayton Valley enjoyed a 2-0 lead in the first period on goals by Sam Anzai (4th) and Anthony Orubor (9th).
Platt's first of the game would make it 2-1 before the first period ended.
Milne had some choice words for his players after the first period but wasn't ready to share just exactly what was said.
“We will leave that in the locker room,” said Milne. “It frustrates you because we are a good hockey team when we play the right way. We challenged some guys character after the first period.”
The response was what he expected, as in the second period Saretsky potted his first two goals before Tisdale — who was a scratch for Friday's game after being bruised in the morning skate — got in on the act with his third goal in four games. Saretsky then completed his period hat trick with just three seconds showing on the clock.
Platt's second and Saretsky's fourth of the night were the third-period goals.
Milne was especially happy with the power play which went 4-for-5 in the game.
“Our power play was good … we did a good job of scouting what they were going to throw at us and we took advantage of that,” he said.
Three of Saretsky's goals came on the power play with Platt's second goal also coming with the Eagles enjoying the man advantage.
Canmore's penalty kill was also good on the night, as the Thunder scored just once in five power-play opportunities.
Canmore outshot Drayton Valley 40-25 which included the Eagles firing 20 shots on goal in the second period.
Eagles goaltender Ryan Bontorin saw his personal five-game losing streak come to an end. He is now 11-15 on the season, although four of those losses have come in overtime or a shootout.
Parker Tobin, a 17-year-old rookie goaltender, was in goal for Drayton Valley and is now 3-11 on the season.
Canmore improved to 16-11-4 this season with the 36 points still placing them fifth in the South Division, five points back of the Camrose Kodiaks (19-12-3) but with three games in hand.
The Eagles head to Camrose on Tuesday(7 p.m., Encana Arena, HockeyTV). The key to victory against the Oilers might be to avoid another slow start.
“We have to come out strong, be simple but effective at the start of the game,” said Saretsky. 'Sometimes we don't get out to the best starts, especially against teams we should be beating. You can't be too cautious [at the start], you have to come out battling.”
Drayton Valley falls to 8-22-4 with the result and dropped to seventh place in the North Divsion after the Grande Prairie Storm (8-23-5) defeated the cellar-dwelling Lloydminster Bobcats (8-20-2) by a 3-0 count on Friday night.
EAGLES NEST: Canmore scratches were Jarell Pinchuk, serving the final game of his three-game suspension, Evan Katelnikoff and Daylan Marchi. … Drawing into the lineup to fill out the defence was Dayton Playford from the Red Deer Chiefs midget AAA. … Scoring changes following the Eagles win over Olds on Friday meant Forchuk was credited with two goals and three points while Ferguson, who was originally credited with a four-point game (two goals and two assists) was changed to one goal and two assists. Ferguson held the AJHL scoring lead for one night, leading Forchuk 42 points to 41 points. … Following Tuesday's game, the Eagles return home for their final two games of 2016, versus the Okotoks Oilers on Friday and Lloydminster on Saturday (both games 7 p.m., Canmore Recreation Centre, HockeyTV).
Photo by: Pam Doyle Photography