Split with Oil Barons
The Canmore Eagles headed to Fort MacMurray for a double hit of Oil Barons in Alberta Junior Hockey League action to begin a 12-game November – with seven of the first nine games on the road.
Canmore was looking to gain some ground in the AJHL standings as they took on the team directly in front of them in the table and the Eagles got off to a good start with a 6-1 win on Saturday (Nov. 4) but lost 5-4 on Sunday (Nov. 5). As a result, the Oil Barons (7-11-1-2) maintained their hold on 13th place with 17 points, staying three points up on the 14th-place Eagles (6-11-1-1).
Canmore introduced a new goaltender into the lineup on the weekend, with major junior veteran Matthew Kieper playing both games. The 2004-born Kieper, who hails from Winnipeg, was released by the Kamloops Blazers in October. In 68 Western Hockey League games over five seasons with the Regina Pats and Kamloops, the 6-foot-2 netminder posted a 3.73 goals-against average and an .879 save percentage.
Canmore is currently without the services of Matthew Malin, whose availability is unknown for the foreseeable future after a collision in a game in Grande Prairie on Oct. 20. The 20-year-old San Francisco, Calif., native, in his third season with the Eagles continues to suffer from concussion-like symptoms. He has appeared in 11 games this season, with a 4.04 goals-against average and an .893 save percentage.
The Eagles third netminder is 18-year-old rookie John MacPherson, who also has 11 appearances, with a 4.81 goals-against average and an .861 save percentage. The Eagles are currently carrying 25 players – the league limit.
Eagles 6 at Oil Barons 1
Kieper should have had a shutout in his AJHL debut as he made 30 saves. Fort McMurray was awarded its only goal when Brett Boucher’s shot hit the crossbar and bounded away from the goal but was incorrectly ruled a goal by referee Ryan White despite lengthy discussions with his fellow officials, the goal judge, a couple of exchanges with a heated Eagles head coach Andrew Milne, and even available video which was not consulted, for a 1-0 lead at 3:21 of the second period. Defining Keiper’s debut shutout performance as a defining moment in a player’s career, Milne said he is hoping to successfully lobby the league to award the new Canmore goaltender his due shutout.
Canmore rebounded nicely though to score six consecutive goals, including two second-period markers: Owen Jones scored on the power play at 12:48, carrying the puck across ice finished by going to the net from the right wing and placing a shot low, far side; Tyler Loughman then scored his first of the season at 18:27, finishing off a 4-on-1 rush with a quick shot into the left side of the goals as Nathan MacPherson-Ridgewell fed him the puck from the right side after getting Oil Barons’ goaltender Gabe Gratton to bite on his move to the goal.
Canmore fired 20 of its 39 shots in the third period with four goals, including three via the power play.
Ethan Look got his first of the season at 6:16 from the left side, pouncing on a puck that bounded out from behind the goal catching the Oil Barons goaltender looking to the other side of the ice.
Then it was time for some power play magic: Brody Tallman scored his seventh goal of the season, a top shelf shot at 10:53 during a 5-on-3; That was followed by Rhett Dekowny’s third goal at 11:48, having only to direct the pass from Loughman as the Eagles broke out of their own end for a 3-on-1 rush; Then Zach Coutu made it three power-play goals on three chances during another 5-on-3 with a one-timer from the top of the right-wing face-off circle at 13:11.
In the end, Canmore would finish 4-for-7 on power play while Fort MacMurray was 0-for-2.
Eagles 4 at Oil Barons 5
Fort MacMurray got its revenge on Sunday afternoon, taking a 5-0 lead and then holding on for the victory as the Eagles closed out the game with the final four goals.
The Oil Barons took a 1-0 lead in the first period on a goal by Liam Rodman, then upped it to 4-0 in the second period on goals by Nikolas Hoogendoorn, Ethan Sundar and Vincent Lamanna. It would be a third period goal at 2:27 by Simon Gaul that would allow the home team to gain a split of the weekend series.
Canmore would rally back, but eventually fall short: Haruki Morikawa scored his second of the season at 3:37 firing a shot low, stick side from the high slot on Oil Barons goaltender Noah Nelson; Jones’s fourth goal of the season came at 5:48, outwaiting Nelson to deposit a backhand shot into the left side of the goal; MacPherson-Ridgewell scored his fourth of the campaign at 10:16, the Eagles’ first shorthanded goal of the season came when the penalty-killer grabbed the puck in his own end and raced away for a breakaway then following a couple of early dekes put a backhander into the right side of goal; Finally, Loughman scored his fourth goal at 14:52 from the right-wing side when he and Josh Hoekstra, carrying the puck down the left, combined on a 2-on-1, with the goal scorer flipping the puck over Nelson as the goaltender dove across ice.
Canmore would pull Kieper from the goal with 82 seconds remaining but were unable to manufacture a solid scoring chance despite controlling the play.
On the power play, Canmore was 0-for-4 and Fort MacMurray was 0-for-3.
Canmore heads to Blackfalds on Wednesday, Nov. 8, 7 p.m. at the Eagles Builders Centre. The Bulldogs (16-3-0, second overall) saw their 15-game streak (14-0-0-1) of not losing in regulation time and its bid to take over first-place in the AJHL with a 6-4 loss to the lowly Drayton Valley Thunder (6-12-1-0, 15th place).
Canmore returns to its home arena next weekend, hosting the Camrose Kodiaks for games Friday, Nov. 10 and Saturday, Nov. 11. Both games are at the Canmore Recreation Centre with 7 p.m. start times. It will be the only visit to Canmore by Camrose this season under the new scheduling format. In the only meeting between the two teams this season on Oct. 8 in Camrose, the Eagles edged the Kodiaks 3-2 with two power-play goals from Tallman.