By Russ Ullyot
C/O Crag and Canyon – Sun Media
Just getting to Canmore on Friday night was worth two points for the Spruce Grove Saints but the Alberta Junior Hockey League’s top-ranked club assured itself of that fact with a 4-3 win over the Canmore Eagles
Despite a two-goal effort Ryley Risling, the hometown Eagles couldn’t muster enough shots at goal to overcome Spruce Grove’s three-goal second period before 352 brave and hardy fans at the Canmore Rec Centre as the Bow Valley endured its first heavy snowfall of the winter – with a heavy snow warning in effect the temperatures hovering around -22C (-32C with the wind chill).
“I thought structurally we were good tonight,” said Eagles head coach Andrew Milne. “They outshot us but I thought their chances weren’t as high quality as the shots would indicate. Our structure was good. I thought our work effort and compete was there.”
Also scoring for Canmore was Jordan Revie.
Spruce Grove goals came from Riley Simpson, Jake Mykitiuk, Jarid Hauptman and Connor James.
Spruce Grove outshot Canmore 38-15. Ryan Ferguson was again in goal for the Eagles, stopping 34 of 38 shots. Spruce Grove goaltender Brett Zarowny made 12 saves.
Revie, coming off a four-goal game on Tuesday, gave the Eagles the start they were looking for in this game. The winger’s 14th goal of the season beat Zarowny from straight out at the hash marks — a snapshot just off the goaltender’s right pad at 1:36
Matt Forchuk stole the puck at the Spruce Grove blue line and fed it to Risling who slipped it neatly on to Revie’s stick as he broke in on goal.
The Eagles would carry that lead into the second period where the Saints answered with three consecutive goals.
Simpson tipped a shot past Ferguson at 3:15, then Mykitiuk’s quick shot following a faceoff win bested the Eagles goaltender far side over his right shoulder at 12:04. Hauptman was then rewarded a breakaway after some poor clearing by the home side and attacking down the left wing put a low shot stick side at 13:03.
On the scoring play, defenceman Brett Schimmel received a hard hit that took him out the game. The Eagles were already without Jakob Lavoie and Nik Kosman, with injuries.
“That’s arguably the best team in the AJHL and we played them to 4-3 without three of our best defencemen in the lineup,” said Milne. ‘I like that about our club. Obviously, a win is what we wanted but I thought the process was good tonight.”
On Wednesday, Canmore added former Calgary Canucks/Mustangs Dereyk Sutherland. The versatile player received a regular blue-line shift, mostly alongside Kevin Wolf on Friday.
“(Sutherland) offers us some energy,” Milne said. “He is able play both forward and D and as you saw tonight with the d-men being out he helped us in that category.
“Once we get healthy, we have the ability to play him up front or at the back.”
Milne was please with the first night effort.
“He played with some energy. He blocked some real big shots. He sacrifices his body a lot. He can play in his own zone and he is a good teammate,” Milne said.
“I thought it was a great first game for him.”
Canmore would close it to 3-2 with 26 second left in the second period. Risling was awarded a penalty shot when hooked by the Saints’ Isaac Farrah. The Canmore forward stickhandled in on Zarowny and then snapped the puck along the ice stick side for his team-leading 18th goal.
It was one of just four shots Canmore had in the period.
A pair of power-play goals opened the third period.
Spruce Grove would renew its three-goal lead at 6:11 of the third period.
That lasted just 48 seconds. On a faceoff in the Saints’ end, when a puck sent to the front of the net was found by Risling. He picked it off Zarowny’s pad and tucked it into the open left side for his 19th goal.
That would complete the scoring, although the Eagles fought right to the final buzzer in an attempt to send the game into overtime.
In addition to the addition of Sutherland, Canmore introduced a third coach on the bench; former minor pro defenceman Kurtis Dulle, who will serve as a part-time coach.
“He just retired from playing pro. … He is a friend of Jeremy (Reich, assistant coach) and mine through the years. He is a defenceman and offers a different perspective when it comes to the back end.
“He is a new set of eyes on things, a new voice and a new opinion. We are good enough friends he is not going to be afraid to speak his mind.”
Spruce Grove improved its North Division-leading record to 22 wins, five losses, three overtime/shootout losses.
Canmore’s record is now 13-15-1.
Next up for the Eagles are the Brooks Bandits (21-6-1) on Saturday night at the Canmore Rec Centre. Game time is 7 p.m.
“They are fast. They come with speed. They come with tenacity,” Milne said. “They are playing pretty well and we are going to have to play well.”
EAGLES NEST: Out of the lineup with injuries are G Levi Nelson, D Jakob Lavoie, D Nik Kosman and F Brett Radford. … Risling and defenceman Griffin Mumby were named the Canada West selection camp for the World Junior A Challenge. The selection Dec. 7-9 in Calgary. The tournament is Dec. 14-20 in Kindersley, Sask.
SAINTS 4 at EAGLES 3
Friday, Nov. 28 at Canmore
1. Canmore: Revie (14) (Risling, Forchuk) 1:36
PENALTIES – Lotoski SG (tripping) 9:53.
2. Spruce Grove: Simpson (8) (Paterson, Pichonsky) 3:5
3. Spruce Grove: Mykitiuk (10) (Mackay) 12:04
4. Spruce Grove: Hauptman (11) (Pichonksy, Hunter) 13:03
5. Canmore: Risiling (18) 19:34 PS
PENALTIES – Gordon Can (charging) 3:40; Mumby Can (tripping) 8:21; Thomas SG (slashing) 18:54; Farrah SG (hooking) 19:34
6. Spruce Grove: James (2) (Hauptman, Biro) 6:11 PP
7. Canmore: Risling 2 (19) (Wilson, Mumby) 6:59 PP
PENALTIES — Biccum Can (holding) 5:27; Lovsin SG (slashing) 6:45; Smith SG (cross checking) 8:09; Sutherland Can (elbowing) 10:34.
Shots on goal by:
Spruce Grove 10 16 12 — 38
Canmore 8 4 2 — 15
Goaltenders: Spruce Grove – Zarowny (11-2); Canmore – R. Ferguson (11-15).
Power Plays: Spruce Grove 1 for 4. Canmore 1 for 4.
Referee: Gavin. Linesmen: Iwaniec, Kozak.