Stumbling into the new year 

Stumbling into the new year 

The Canmore Eagles exited 2023 on a high but entered 2024 on a low, losing two home games as the team resumed their Alberta Junior Hockey League schedule.

Canmore losses of 6-3 to Drayton Valley Thunder on Friday and 4-2 to the Lloydminster Bobcats on Saturday saw the Eagles take a step back in the league table as they fell into 12th place with a record of 17-21-1-1.

Canmore is tied at 36 points with the 11th place Grande Prairie Storm (15-18-4-2), and are three back of the 10th place Grove Saints (15-18-4-2), who lost 2-1 to the last-place Olds Grizzlys (10-25-2-3) on Saturday. The Eagles remained five points ahead of the 13th place Fort McMurray Oil Barons (13-23-2-3), who lost three games in three days, beginning Thursday 5-3 to the 6th place Pontiacs (21-17-3-0) at Bonnyville followed by 7-0 to Spruce Grove on Friday and 9-4 to the 2nd place Crusaders (33-7-1-0) in Sherwood Park on Saturday.

Canmore will try to salvage a win out of their 2024 opening homestand when they host the 8th place Calgary Canucks (21-17-1-1) on Tuesday, Jan. 9, 7 p.m. at the Canmore Recreation Centre. After Tuesday, the Eagles head out on a three-games-in-three-days road trip, passing through Grande Prairie on Friday, Jan. 12, Whitecourt on Saturday, Jan. 13 and Drayton Valley on Sunday, Jan. 14.

Thunder 6 at Eagles 3 

Canmore started off on the right foot, Owen Jones scoring his 11th goal of the season on the power play just 3:10 into the game.

Drayton Valley though scored the next five goals. Xander Schulte tied the game at 1-1 in the first period. Then a hat trick by Ty Gordon, including a penalty shot goal, and a goal by Cooper Brown rounded out an arena-silencing second period for the visiting Thunder.

In the third period, Canmore would get power-play goals from Rhett Dekowny, his 8th, and Tyler Loughman, his 10th, which sandwiched a Drayton Valley power-play marker from Ryan Neuman.

Canmore played shorthanded the final four-plus minutes of the game after Casey Black was given a major penalty for a blow to the head. He was subsequently suspended two games, which ruled him out of Saturday’s clash and Tuesday’s game.

Canmore outshot Drayton Valley 34-31 with Cameron Doucette in goal for the Thunder. John MacPherson started for Canmore, his first appearance since a relief stint – although that was nearly 48 minutes of work – against the Drumheller Dragons on Dec. 9. The rookie goaltender was tagged for five goals on 20 Thunder shots through two periods. Matthew Malin came on in relief in the third period and faced 11 shots.

On the power play, Canmore finished 3-for-8 and Drayton Valley 2-for-7 with nine of those 15 power plays coming in the third period – with five to the Thunder including the major penalty.

Bobcats 4 at Eagles 2 

Despite being outshot 11-3 in the opening period, Lloydminster took a 1-0 lead into the first break and would never trail in this hockey game despite Canmore tying the contest on two occasions.

Ben Aucoin scored the first of his three goals – he also assisted on the other Lloydminster marker – with just 43 seconds remaining in the opening period.

Brody Mortensen’s 10th goal of the season for Canmore would knot the game at 1-1 through two periods.

The two teams would then trade goals early in the third period with Kade Fendelet restoring Lloydminster’s lead and Kayden Rawji’s fourth goal of the season at 3:11 tying the game at 2-2.

Canmore was tagged for two late penalties which resulted in two power-play goals by Aucoin inside the final four minutes to seal Lloydminster’s victory.

The Eagles lost captain Brody Tallman in the first period when he was assessed a checking-from-behind penalty which comes with an automatic game misconduct. After Aucoin’s third goal, Rhett Dekowny was assessed a 10-minute misconduct. That was followed in the final minute by a gross misconduct penalty to Tavynn Schlaht, who is indefinitely suspended while a league review of the incident is undertaken.

When it came to the power play, Canmore finished 0-for-3 and Lloydminster went 2-for-5 in a game that featured the two most penalized teams in the league. The Eagles were assessed 58 minutes in penalties – four minors and five misconducts (which inludes Carter Rimstad receiving a 10-minute misconduct on the Tallman penalty call) and average 20.75 minutes per game. The Bobcats were assessed just three minor penalties, coming in well below their average of 20.61 minutes per game.

Canmore outshot Lloydminster 31-22, with Malin in goal for the Eagles, and Lloydminster native Haden Heide made his junior regular-season debut for the Bobcats – after appearing in one playoff game last season – making the permanent move up from the U18 ranks this week.