AJHL South Final Preview
After another tight regular season in the Alberta Junior Hockey League’s Viterra South Division, it only makes sense that the top two teams — the Camrose Kodiaks and Brooks Bandits — square off to see who’ll represent their division against the best the Viterra AJHL North Division has to offer.
Camrose won the battle in the regular season series and as the top seed will be favoured to win again. The Kodiaks took five of the six games in the season series, though they were run out of the Centennial Regional Arena by a 6-1 score at the end of January.
When the series kicks off Friday in Camrose, the matchup will pit the South Division’s best offence against the division’s best defence. While the Kodiaks’ offence fell just short of equalling the Bandits’ scoring machine, the Kodiaks held a significant edge in goals against, allowing just 129 goals over the course of the 60-game season and holding the Drumheller Dragons to just two goals per game of offence in the second round.
The Kodiaks did have a mild dose of trouble against the Dragons in the second round of the playoffs, requiring an overtime victory in game five and 47 saves from Devin McDonald to earn the series victory in five games. On the Bandits’ side of things, their steamroller kicked into high-gear against the Okotoks Oilers, averaging 5.75 goals per game.
On special teams, the Kodiaks have looked solid through one round, scoring four times on 12 opportunities. Where the Kodiaks have looked solid, the Bandits have looked stellar, scoring 16 goals on 56 opportunities through just seven games. The Kodiaks haven’t played enough to determine a true sample size, but 85% penalty kill and 33.33% power play should be more than enough to carry themselves if they continue that against Brooks.
This series was one of the best to watch during the regular season and should step up a notch in the playoffs, regardless of which team emerges victorious.
AJHL North Final Preview
Despite 30 points separating the two in the standings during the regular season, if anyone is going to usurp the Spruce Grove Saints in the AJHL North Division final, it may very well be the Bonnyville Pontiacs.
With only two regulation losses since February 1, the Pontiacs are the hottest team in the entire league, and are firing on all cylinders heading to Spruce Grove for the opener of the series.
Dillan McCombie, who had the series clincher in overtime against the Lloydminster Bobcats, has five goals and 11 points in nine playoff games so far, while former major junior player Kyler Hehn is also scoring at a point per game pace, with four goals and 10 points.
But that doesn't mean the Saints don't have the fire power to match. Arguably the best top to bottom team in the AJHL, the Saints had a first round bye in the playoffs, however, Parker MacKay has still be able to score five goals and nine points in just six games, and has the third highest point per game total of anyone in the playoffs.
Bonnyville has put their faith in Troy Trombley in goal all playoffs, as his nine starts is second most in the league, and he has only given up 2.20 goals per game as well. His 7-2-0 record is also the most wins of any goalie still in the playoffs.
Spruce Grove has gone with Brett Zarowny for five of their six games played, but he was chased once, and sat as the backup for another. His 3-2-0 record might be behind what Trombley is doing for Bonnyville, but his 1.97 GAA proves he can still stop pucks when they come at him. And so far, he has only faced 84 shots in five games, so shots on net haven't be coming in bunches.
Spruce Grove took the regular season series with four wins in six games, losing once in overtime and another by a single goal, but it is of note that Trombley wasn't with team till the new year, and both Bonnyville victories come in the second half of the season after the trade deadline.
Both teams have been able to make other teams pay on the power play, as the Pontiacs and Saints have been able to score a quarter of the time with the man advantage. Bonnville has had 53 chances on the power play, the second most in the playoffs, and have scored 13 times, while the Saints have eight goals on 31 chances.
Penalty kill wise, both are hovering around the 80 per cent mark, however, Bonnyville has taken the second most penalties in the playoffs and been shorthanded 48 times, compared to the Saints, who have been down a man only 15 times. While the Saints have played three games less in the post season, their low short handed numbers speaks to the discipline on the team. If Bonnyville continues their trips to the sin-bin, it could be a short series once the Saints power play gets firing.