Photo Credit - Chad Goddard:
The Alberta Junior Hockey League kicks off the November portion of the calendar this weekend after what was an entertaining first two months of the year. The opening weekend will have plenty of entertaining hockey on display with Spruce Grove and Sherwood Park colliding, Whitecourt making the trip North to face the Oil Barons, and Brooks will look to remain perfect as they take on the Dragons.
Bonnyville Pontiacs: 10-4-2 (3rd in the North Division)
Weekend Schedule: Friday @ Storm, Saturday @ Storm
After a two-game homestand, the Bonnyville Pontiacs head North to the City of Grande Prairie to challenge the Storm. It was only last weekend that the Yaks took on the Storm and, despite a late game-tying goal from Jackson Savoie, Bonnyville came out on top thanks to an overtime winner from Alexander Marocco. This wasn’t the first time Marocco has scored a clutch goal for his new team. Back at showcase weekend, the 2000-born defenceman netted the overtime winner against the host Camrose Kodiaks.
Drayton Valley Thunder: 4-11-3 (7th in the North Division)
Weekend Schedule: Friday @ Bobcats, Saturday @ Bobcats
It wasn’t a smooth start to the week for the Drayton Valley Thunder. On Tuesday night, they gave up seven goals to the Sherwood Park Crusaders and were only able to respond with one of their own. Of those seven goals, three of them were short handed. They’ll be looking to bounce back and get into the win column with a trip to the Border City on the schedule. This will be the first matchup between the Drayton Valley Thunder and Lloydminster Bobcats this season.
Fort McMurray Oil Barons: 7-10-1 (5th in the North Division)
Weekend Schedule: Friday vs Wolverines, Saturday vs Wolverines
No road trips for the Oil Barons this weekend as they start their November schedule with a pair of home games against the Whitecourt Wolverines. The MOB have been getting back into the rhythm of winning recently with W’s coming in three of their last four games. Rookie defenceman Kabore Dunn played a significant role in the success with five points over that period including a three point game in a 6-5 SO win over the Bonnyville Pontiacs. Dunn was later named the AJHL Defensive Player of the Week.
Grande Prairie Storm: 6-11-1 (6th in the North Division)
Weekend Schedule: Friday vs Pontiacs, Saturday vs Pontiacs
The Storm return to the Revolution Arena this weekend after playing their previous two home games at the Coca Cola Centre. Grande Prairie is looking to get out of a hole right now as they find themselves on a six game losing skid. They came close to getting in the win column last Saturday versus Bonnyille, however, Alexander Marocco had other plans as he netted the overtime winner for the Pontiacs 1:42 into the extra frame. They’ll get their chance at redemption this weekend though as the Pontiacs made the trip North for a pair of games.
Lloydminster Bobcats: 1-15-2 (8th in the North Division)
Weekend Schedule: Friday vs Thunder, Saturday vs Thunder
The Bobcats return to Lloydminster for the weekend after a midweek 10-5 loss to the Spruce Grove Saints on the road. One positive to take away from the defeat is the fact they scored five goals against one of the best defensive teams in the AJHL. It was the first time they’ve scored more than two goals in a game since a 4-3 OT loss to the Dragons at the AJHL Showcase. The Bobcats cross off the Drayton Valley Thunder from their schedules for the first time this season as they make the trip to the Centennial Civic Centre Arena.
Sherwood Park Crusaders: 18-1-0 (1st in the North Division)
Weekend Schedule: Friday vs Saints, Saturday @ Saints
Goaltending has played a significant role over this last period for the Crusaders. While their offence has still been very well alive, in their previous six games, Carter Gylander (Colgate University) and Jordan Frey are averaging under a goal per game. They haven’t allowed more than one goal in a game since October 14th. This weekend, they’ll go up against cross-town rivals the Spruce Grove Saints in a home and home series. The two North Division teams haven’t faced each other since the Saints eliminated the Crusaders in the North Division finals last season. The bad blood circulated from that series will still be boiling with 23 players returning for both teams from last season.
Spruce Grove Saints: 15-3-0 (2nd in the North Division)
Weekend Schedule: Friday @ Crusaders, Saturday vs Crusaders
Spruce Grove hit double digits in goals on Tuesday night as they put ten by the Lloydminster Bobcats on home ice. Ryan Peckford was unbelievable putting up a league-high seven points bringing his total to 27 on the season. Jordan Biro has also been in great form for the Saints as he heads into the weekend on a five game point streak. This weekend, they will be in a two game series against the Sherwood Park Crusaders. While the Crusaders may have had their number in the regular season, the Saints prevailed in the North Division Finals in six games to move onto the 2019 AJHL Finals.
Whitecourt Wolverines: 7-7-2 (4th in the North Division)
Weekend Schedule: Friday @ Oil Barons, Saturday @ Oil Barons
The Wolverines kick off their November calendar with a trip North to face their rivals the Fort McMurray Oil Barons. They will be hoping to get back on track in the North Division after they disappointingly end October with back-to-back losses to the Sherwood Park Crusaders. Last season, Whitecourt didn’t have much luck in their three visits to the Casman Centre; the Wolverines fell on all three occasions and were outscored 14 to 3. They’ll look to change to fortunes on this visit.
Brooks Bandits: 18-0-0 (1st in the North Division)
Weekend Schedule: Saturday vs Dragons, Sunday @ Canucks
The Brooks Bandits are the number one team in the CJHL right now as they sit at a perfect 18-0-0 to start the season. They picked up win 18 on Tuesday night in Canmore despite the resilience of the Eagles. Randy Hernandez played a pivotal role in the offensive success the Bandits had with a pair of goals and an assist. The Miami, Flordia, native currently sits fifth in league scoring with 29 points (13 goals, 16 assists) in 18 games. This weekend, Brooks will host the Drumheller Dragons on Friday night and then make the trip to the Ken Bracko Arenain Calgary on Sunday. The Dragons and Bandits have faced off twice already this season with one of them going to overtime. On that occasion, Brayden Krieger scored the overtime winner for Brooks. As for their Sunday opponent, the defending National Champions have handled the Canucks outscoring them 21 to 3 in their previous three meetings.
Calgary Canucks: 2-15-1 (7th in the South Division)
Weekend Schedule: Friday vs Oilers, Sunday vs Bandits
The Canucks have been on a tough stretch since beating the Canmore Eagles 4-2 on October 15th. Following that big victory, they’ve fallen four games in a row with losses coming against the Drumheller Dragons, Canmore Eagles, Olds Grizzlys and the Camrose Kodiaks. Hassan Akl has been a bright spot this joining them from the Dragons having scored four points in seven games. This weekend, Akl and the rest of his Canucks faceoff against the top two teams in the South Division when the Okotoks Oilers and Brooks Bandits making visits to the Ken Bracko Arena.
Camrose Kodiaks: 8-6-2 (4th in the South Division)
Weekend Schedule: Friday @ Eagles, Saturday @ Eagles,
Camrose played in front of a packed Encana Arena on Tuesday afternoon as they hosted their Hockey Hooky game. The Calgary Canucks were the visitors that day and were handed a 6-2 loss with goals coming from Damon Zimmer, Callum Gau, Lynden Grandberg, Cody Laskosky, and a couple from Jacob Kendall (Niagara University). With the 6-2 win, the Kodiaks continued their strong form through October finishing with a 6-3-0 record. They’ll head into Eagles territory this weekend for their first trip to the Canmore Recreation Centre.
Canmore Eagles: 6-9-2 (3rd in the South Division)
Weekend Schedule: Friday vs Kodiaks, Saturday vs Kodiaks
The Eagles came close to knocking off the undefeated Brooks Bandits on Tuesday night on home ice. Tian Rask tied the game with 1:07 to play in the third period, but after a scoreless overtime, Canmore couldn’t find a way to beat Pierce Charleson in the shootout falling 5-4. Since returning to Canmore, after starting the season in Banff, the Eagles offence has been flying scoring 13 goals across a three game span. Alex Young (Colgate University) has played a massive part in the offensive success as he is responsible for 6 of those 13 goals. Coming up this weekend, the Canmore Recreation Centre plays host to the Camrose Kodiaks for a pair of games on Friday and Saturday. Friday night will be the first meeting between the two South Division opponents.
Drumheller Dragons: 11-5-2 (3rd in the South Division)
Weekend Schedule: Friday vs Grizzlys, Saturday @ Bandits
The Dragons have been in their fair share of close games during their recent run. Three of their last four games have gone to overtime and the one that didn’t was only a two-goal differential. Luckily for them, they’ve prevailed in all three trips to the extra period with wins over the Olds Grizzlys, Canmore Eagles and Drayton Valley Thunder. They are looking to close out the game in 60 minutes this weekend as they face the Olds Grizzlys at home and then Brooks Bandits on the road.
Okotoks Oilers: 14-2-2 (2nd in the South Division)
Weekend Schedule: Friday @ Canucks, Saturday vs Grizzlys
The Oilers rose from 13th to 9th in the recent CJHL Top 20 Rankings as they continue their strong start to the 2019/2020 campaign. In October, Okotoks went 10-0-2 which include a massive win over the Sherwood Park Crusaders, handing them their first loss of the year. On Friday, Tyler Deis’ team make the short trip to Calgary to take on the Canucks at the Ken Braco Arena which will be their final visit this season. In their last trip to Calgary, rookie forward Dylan James (University of North Dakota) provided some late drama scoring with under two minutes to play. Then on Saturday, the Oilers head back to Okotoks for a contest against the Olds Grizzlys. In their lone matchup so far this season, Okotoks came out on top 5-3 at the Pason Centennial Arena.
Olds Grizzlys: 4-11-1 (6th in the South Division)
Weekend Schedule: Friday @ Dragons, Saturday @ Oilers
The Olds Grizzlys are heading into the weekend off the back of a massive 7-1 victory over the Calgary Canucks. Zafir Rawji exploded for five points on the night which included his first career AJHL hat trick. He was later rewarded with the AJHL’s Player of the Week award. Another couple of new additions, Logan Bromhead and Bryce Ospechuk, also had multi-point games. This weekend, the Grizzlys hit the road for a pair of games versus the Drumheller Dragons and then the Okotoks Oilers. Olds pulled off the biggest comeback of the season so far in their first matchup against the Dragons. Hoon Kim was the overtime hero who completed the rally after the Grizzlys were losing 4-1 midway through the second. More recently, the Grizzlys faced the Oilers just last Friday when they fell 5-3.
Story by @LiamHorrobin