2019 AJHL Showcase Preview

With the first few weekends of the AJHL campaign in the books, the league?s 15 franchises will all converge on Camrose this weekend for the 2019 AJHL Showcase which will jam 15 games into three days, all of which played at either the Encana Arena or the Max McLean Arena.  Also, if you aren?t able to make it to Camrose, the AJHL is broadcasting three games for free during the showcase when you register for a free account with HockeyTV.

The free games: On Thursday, the Spruce Grove Saints will have a finals rematch against the Brooks Bandits in an undefeated showdown; On Friday, the host Camrose Kodiaks will play the Bonnyville Pontiacs; and on Saturday there?s an interdivisional matchup as the Sherwood Park Crusaders face off against the Okotoks Oilers.  Here?s how each squad is faring heading into the showcase.

Bonnyville Pontiacs (3-1-1, 7 points, 4th AJHL North)

The Bonnyville Pontiacs are off to a solid start to their season, with points in four of their first five games while showcasing their ability to put the puck in the net.  The ?Yaks are currently paced by ?99 Lucas Thorne in both goals, assists and points (3-6-9) while three other players (Matthew McKim, Thomas Kramer, and Joshua Kroon) are all at a point per game clip or better.  Easton Hesse has been between the pipes for every game thus far and possesses some strong numbers: a .926 Sv% to go along with a 2.33 GAA.

Coming off a big 7-4 victory over the Fort McMurray Oil Barons on Tuesday (which saw their league-best powerplay click on half of their eight opportunities), the Pontiacs will head to the showcase to play the Camrose Kodiaks on Friday (7 pm MT) and the Whitecourt Wolverines on Saturday (4:30 pm MT).  Bonnyville and Whitecourt have already met twice this year, with each team taking a shootout win on opening weekend.

Brooks Bandits (4-0-0, 8 points, 1st AJHL South)

The Brooks Bandits are once again an on-ice force and are one of just three teams remaining perfect in the 2019-2020 campaign.  Playing some firewagon hockey to start the year, the exciting Bandits have rattled off four wins against the Dragons, Kodiaks, and Canucks to start the season.  Trey Thomas, Jakob Lee, and Corson Ceulemans lead the Bandits with 7 points each, while Devin Phillips (6) and Brayden Krieger, Chris Pappas, and Tim Rego are also on point-per game clips.  Returning netminder Pierce Charleson has made 3 of the 4 Bandit starts (.875 Sv%, 3.00 GAA) while Ethan Barwick was in goal for a 4-2 win over the Calgary Canucks on Saturday in the team?s most recent game. 

The Bandits will put their perfect record on the line against another perfect team, the 6-0 Spruce Grove Saints, on Thursday (8 pm MT) at the showcase and will wrap things up Friday (4:30 pm MT) against the Fort McMurray Oil Barons.

Calgary Canucks (1-3-1, 3 points, 7th AJHL South)

The new-look Calgary Canucks picked up points in two of their first three games to start the year, but have gone on a two game slide to follow up their first regulation victory.  Leading Canucks in scoring is ?01 Dylan Clark, who has 4 points in 4 games played while fellow ?01 Christiano Aiello has picked up three points in his three games played.  The Canucks goaltending situation has been platoon duties to start the year, with ?01 Jay Thomson picking up the Canucks first W and sitting with a record of 1-2, while ?02 Connor Martin is 0-1-1.

At this weekend?s showcase, the Canucks will find themselves in a pair of measuring stick games with a pair of afternoon tilts against the Whitecourt Wolverines (1 pm MT Friday) and Spruce Grove Saints (1 pm MT Saturday). 

Camrose Kodiaks (2-3-0, 4 points, 5th AJHL South)

The hometown Camrose Kodiaks are 2-3 out of the gate this season, with their last two losses being cemented in the 3rd period of close games with the Drumheller Dragons and the Okotoks Oilers.  While the Kodiaks look to climb back above .500, they certainly will look to a pair of early-season success stories to be footholds.  ?99 Forward Cody Laskosky has racked up a league-leading 7 goals (and is second in points with 12) through the first five games while the Kodiaks penalty kill is a sterling 90.5%, second best in the AJHL.  The potent offence is complimented by ?02 Robert Kincaid (1-7-8), ?99 Jacob Kendall (3-3-6), ?99 Erik Miller (1-5-6) and ?00 Damon Zimmer (1-4-5).

The Kodiaks begin the showcase with just one win in their last four outings, which should lead to a spirited effort in front of the home crowd against the Bonnyville Pontiacs on Friday night (7 pm MT) and the Fort McMurray Oil Barons on Saturday night (7 pm MT).

Canmore Eagles (2-2-0, 4 points, 4th AJHL South)

The Canmore Eagles have a matching pair of wins and losses through the early part of their schedule, with the results trading off.  Unsurprisingly, ?01 Alex Young is off to another scintillating start with 3 goals and 8 points while the Eagles? power play is once again a factor converting on nearly a fifth of their 27 tries.  In net, ?99 Logan Dyck has bounced back from a rough first game with two solid back-to-back 30+ save performances.

The Eagles will look to start their first winning streak of the season at the AJHL Showcase, as they are flying high after holding off the Olds Grizzlys 3-2 on Tuesday.  The Eagles play a pair of North Division teams: the Grande Prairie Storm on Thursday (7 pm MT) and the Drayton Valley Thunder on Friday afternoon (3:30 pm MT).

Drayton Valley Thunder (1-3-1, 3 points, 6th AJHL North)

The Thunder have seen lightning strike just once in their first five games; though it was their most recent showing with a gutsy 2-1 road win over the Bonnyville Pontiacs on Saturday.  Drayton Valley has a point-per-game output from ?99 Jeremy Klessens as he?s factored in on over half of the Thunders? goals this season.  The Thunder have also started three goalies this season with solid numbers being shared amongst 01 Eric Ward, ?00 Shawn Wiranata, and ?99 Rory Dumelie. 

At the showcase, the Thunder will look to fill the net more consistently and start their first winning streak of the season.  In a pair of afternoon engagements, the Thunder will face the Canmore Eagles (Friday at 3:30 pm MT) and the Olds Grizzlys (Noon on Saturday).

Drumheller Dragons (2-1-2, 6 points, 3rd AJHL South)

 The Drumheller Dragons are tied for 2nd place in the AJHL south and are just a pair of points behind the undefeated Brooks Bandits after five games, though the two teams ahead of them both have a game in hand. A team identified by depth so far, the Dragons have 9 players with at least 4 points while all but one skater have recorded a point for Drumheller this year.  The Dragons are also a threat on the power play, with the third best conversion at 20%.

With points in four straight games, the Dragons face a tough test when they open up their showcase schedule against the undefeated Sherwood Park Crusaders (Thursday 4:30 pm MT) and they?ll close things out against the Lloydminster Bobcats in Saturday matinee madness (Noon MT). 

Fort McMurray Oil Barons (1-4-0, 2 points, 7th AJHL North)

After a 5-3 win on opening night against the Grande Prairie Storm, the Oil Barons have yet to return to the win column during a four-game skid against the Storm, Saints, Crusaders, and Pontiacs.  The Oil Barons did rekindle their offense earlier this week, put special teams would let them down in a 7-4 loss at home to the Bonnyville Pontiacs.  Forwards ?00 Jonathan Assayag and ?99 Logan Bromhead lead the MOB with 3 goals each, while ?01 goaltender Evan Fradette has had a solid start recording a .918 Sv% and 3.10 GAA in two appearances.

The road back to the win column doesn?t get any easier for the Oil Barons at the Showcase, as they will face the last of the three remaining undefeated teams they?ve yet to play this year in the Brooks Bandits (4:30 pm MT Friday) before closing things out against the host Camrose Kodiaks on Saturday night (7 pm MT). 

Grande Prairie Storm (4-2-0, 8 points, 3rd AJHL North)

The Grande Prairie Storm are off to a terrific start, with four wins in their last five and a stingy defence that?s allowed more than a single goal just twice.  As such, the story for the Storm early on are the gross goaltending numbers put up by 01?s Kaeden Lane and Lars Kaliel.  The goalies have matching 2-1 records and 1.30 GAA?s, while Kaliel?s Sv% of .952 is slightly better than Lane?s .951, but Lane?s got a shutout. 

The Storm will look to continue their hot start at the showcase against the Canmore Eagles Thursday (7 pm MT) and the Okotoks Oilers Friday (8 pm MT).

Lloydminster Bobcats (0-4-1, 1 point, 8th AJHL North)

The Lloydminster Bobcats are off to a difficult start to the season and are the last team in the AJHL looking to record their first win.  After opening up their season with a pair of losses against the Crusaders and another to the Saints (both still undefeated) the Bobcats came very close to picking up W?s on the road in Grande Prairie last weekend, falling 2-1 in a shootout and 1-0 in regulation. 

Coming so close to their first victories of the year will serve as extra motivation for the Border City ?Cats in Camrose, as their showcase begins on Thursday afternoon against the Olds Grizzlys (3:30 pm MT) and wraps up Friday (Noon MT) against the Drumheller Dragons.

Okotoks Oilers (3-1-0, 6 points, 2nd AJHL South)

The Okotoks Oilers are once again striking offensive oil, drilling 20 pucks past the opposition through the first four games of their season en route to three wins.  Returning ?00 forward Louis Jamernik has 3 of those goals and leads the team with 7 points, while 8 other Oilers are on point-per-game paces or better in a envious display of depth. 

The Oilers will try to extend their win streak to three at the showcase against on Friday night (8 pm MT) when their high octane offence comes up against the Grande Prairie Storm?s brick wall defence and will close things out in a heavy weight bought against the Sherwood Park Crusaders on Saturday afternoon (3:30 pm MT).

Olds Grizzlys (2-3-0, 15 points, 6th AJHL South)

After just 6 wins all season last year, the Olds Grizzlys have picked up 2 wins in their first 5 games to start 2019-2020.  The much improved Grizzlys squad saw a lot of tinkering over the summer, but it?s returning Grizzly ?00 forward Hunter Floris bearing down on opposition netminders with 5 goals in as many games.  After recording a two game win streak ( 5-4 SO over the Canucks; 5-4 OT against the Dragons), the Grizzlies have dropped back-to-back games and will try to get back on track at the showcase.

The Grizzlys will start the showcase against the Lloydminster Bobcats on Thursday afternoon (3:30 pm MT) before an off Friday.  On Saturday, Olds will face the Drayton Valley Thunder (Noon MT).

Sherwood Park Crusaders (5-0-0, 10 points, 2nd AJHL North)

After capturing the North Division last year, the Sherwood Park Crusaders are picking things right back up with aplomb putting together a flawless 5-0 start and holding a league-best penalty kill at a perfect 100%.  Crusaders captain ?99 Arjun Atwal is the current AJHL Player of the Week, with 10 points in his last three games adding to his league leading point total of 13.  Also off to great offensive starts are ?99 William Zapernick (5-5-10); ?02 Carter Savoie (4-5-9); ?00 Jacob Franczak (2-5-7); and ?99 Jarred White (3-3-6).

The Crusaders are looking to stay perfect at the showcase but it won?t be easy.  On Thursday, the Crusaders look to tame the Drumheller Dragons (4:30 pm MT) and face the Okotoks Oilers on Saturday (3:30 pm MT).

Spruce Grove Saints (6-0-0, 12 points, 1st AJHL North)

After coming up short of a championship repeat last season, the Spruce Grove Saints look determined to get back there with an AJHL best 6-0 start.  They also lead the league early on in goals scored (28) while allowing the fewest against (9).  ?99 Ryan Peckford and ?01 Cam Mitchell (a hometown product) are tied for the team lead in goals with 6 each while ?01 goaltender Matthew Davis is 5-0 with a shutout, .930 Sv% and 1.57 GAA. 

In what looks to be one of the biggest tilts of the showcase, the Spruce Grove Saints will look to avenge their finals loss to the also-perfect Brooks Bandits on Thursday night (8 pm MT) before resuming their showcase on Saturday for a matinee against the Calgary Canucks (1 pm MT).

Whitecourt Wolverines (1-2-2, 4 points, 5th AJHL North)

The Whitecourt Wolverines could easily have forced their way into the top half of the division with some better puck luck to start their season.  Their first 3 games all went to the shootout, with the Wolverines only able to pick up the victory in one (4-3 vs Bonnyville) while dropping the other two by matching 2-1 decisions (Bonnyville; Grande Prairie).  Consequent tough nights on the road in Sherwood Park and Spruce Grove leave the Wolverines looking for win number two in the showcase.

Whitecourt will start their showcase with an interdivisional game against the Calgary Canucks on Friday (1 pm MT) and then will face the Bonnyville Pontiacs for the third time this month and season on Saturday (4:30 pm MT).