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We?ve now made it past the midway point of the AJHL season and edge ever so closer to the post-season. With only two more weekends until the Christmas break, teams will look to end 2019 on a positive note and began 2020 in good spirits.
There are plenty of crucial matchups coming up this weekend with a grudge match game happening between the Sherwood Park Crusaders and Spruce Grove Saints. AJHL fans will also be gifted with the Brooks Bandits going up against a pair of North Division opponents, and the Bonnyville Pontiacs take on Fort McMurray as they seek more for revenge after last weekend.
Bonnyville Pontiacs: 22-9-2 (3rd in the North Division)
Weekend Schedule: Friday vs Drayton Valley Thunder, Saturday @ Fort McMurray Oil Barons
Bonnyville has got themselves off to a great start in December, which began with a massive comeback win over the Sherwood Park Crusaders. That was then followed by a late loss to the Fort McMurray Oil Barons; however, they immediately got back on track putting nine goals by those same Oil Barons the next day. They made it back-to-back wins on Wednesday night beating the Lloydminster Bobcats 6-4 on the road. Matthew McKim and Jeremy Gervais have each played pivotal roles recently with both players currently on eight-game point streaks. This weekend, they?ll take on the Drayton Valley Thunder on home ice and then travel to take on the Oil Barons on Sunday. In their two previous matchups with the Thunder, each team has one win to their name. However, those games came back in September and much has changed for both organizations. The Pontiacs have already faced the MOB five times this season with the most recent coming this past weekend.
Drayton Valley Thunder: 11-17-4 (5th in the North Division)
Weekend Schedule: Friday @ Bonnyville Pontiacs, Saturday @ Fort McMurray Oil Barons
Eric Thurston and his Thunder team hit the road on the weekend for a pair of games against the Bonnyville Pontiacs and Fort McMurray Oil Barons. Heading into those games, Drayton Valley is 3-2-0 with wins coming against Fort McMurray, Olds, and Whitecourt in overtime. It?s been a while since they faced Bonnyville with their most recent matchup coming back on September 21st at the RJ Lalonde Arena. The Pontiacs scored first, but goals from Kadyn Chabot and Tanner Hopps helped the Thunder overcome that deficit and win 2-1. As previously mentioned, they faced the Oil Barons at the back end of November beating them 6-0 at the Drayton Valley Omniplex.
Fort McMurray Oil Barons: 12-19-2 (6th in the North Division)
Weekend Schedule: Saturday vs Drayton Valley Thunder, Sunday vs Bonnyville Pontiacs
The Fort McMurray Oil Barons return to the Casman Centre for the weekend after playing their previous three games on the road. They?ll hope that being back at home can give them good fortune after dropping two of their last three games. However; the MOB did come away with three points with a win over Bonnyville, and a losers point against Lloydminster. Over the weekend, they?ll be hosting the Drayton Valley Thunder on Friday, then on Sunday, those same Pontiacs they beat 3-2 last Saturday thanks to some late heroics from Michael Hodge.
Grande Prairie Storm: 11-15-2 (7th in the North Division)
Weekend Schedule: Friday vs Brooks Bandits, Saturday vs Lloydminster Bobcats
The Storm go from one extreme to the other this weekend as they host the Brooks Bandits and Lloydminster Bobcats. The Bandits are up first in what will be the Storm’s first game of December. Grande Prairie is yet to faceoff against Brooks this season. However, they are familiar with their Saturday night opponents, the Lloydminster Bobcats, who they?ve faced four times already. The Storm have came away with three wins in their four meetings and gained a losers point in the fourth. Their most recent meeting happened back on November 22nd when the Storm came out 4-1 winners.
Lloydminster Bobcats: 5-24-3 (8th in the North Division)
Weekend Schedule: Friday @ Whitecourt Wolverines, Saturday @ Grande Prairie Storm
Last weekend, the Bobcats defeated the Oil Barons in a shootout as they hosted a game in Onion Lake. Ty Mosimann tied the game with 12 seconds left to send it to overtime, and then Chance Adrian netted in the shootout to give the Bobcats maximum points. This weekend, they?ll look to get in the win column once again and close the gap on the Storm in seventh place, as they faceoff against Whitecourt and Grande Prairie.
Sherwood Park Crusaders: 27-3-0 (1st in the North Division)
Weekend Schedule: Friday vs Spruce Grove Saints, Sunday @ Camrose Kodiaks
The Crusaders are heading into the weekend hot of a 5-2 win over the Okotoks Oilers on Wednesday night. They?ll have to play up to those standards again tonight as they take on the Spruce Grove Saints at the Sherwood Park Arena. The two Edmonton teams saw each other only last weekend when the Crusaders came out on top 6-3 winners. Then, on Sunday, Sherwood Park travels down Highway 21 for their lone visit the Encana Arena to play the Camrose Kodiaks. In their one previous meeting this season the Crusades came with a 6-1 victory.
Spruce Grove Saints: 25-6-2 (2nd in the North Division)
Weekend Schedule: Friday @ Sherwood Park Crusaders
Spruce Grove is in action only once this weekend, and that contest comes on the road versus the Sherwood Park Crusaders. They faced off against the Crusaders just last weekend. In that game, the Crusaders started with a 3-0 lead, but the Saints never gave up and dug deep to pull it back to 3-3. However, three late third period goals prevented the Saints from completing the comeback and caused them to fall 6-3. Spruce Grove will head into that contest off the back of a 7-4 win over the Okotoks Oilers last night.
Whitecourt Wolverines: 15-11-4 (4th in the North Division)
Weekend Schedule: Friday vs Lloydminster Bobcats, Saturday vs Brooks Bandits
Whitecourt is comfortably sitting in fourth in the North Division with an eight-point gap between themselves and the Thunder in fifth. Furthermore, they?re also eight points behind the Pontiacs for third in the division with three fewer games played. The Wolverines will look to close that gap with two big home games on the schedule this weekend. First, Lloydminster is in town on Friday night for their first visit to the Scott Safety Centre this season. Then they?ll host the Brooks Bandits on Saturday.
Brooks Bandits: 31-1-1 (1st in the South Division)
Weekend Schedule: Friday @ Grande Prairie Storm, Saturday @ Whitecourt Wolverines
The Brooks Bandits head North for the weekend as they make their lone regular-season visits to Grande Prairie and Whitecourt. They are yet to see either of their opponents as we hit the midway point of the season. Heading into the contests, the Bandits are riding a league-high seven-game win streak with their most recent coming last Saturday versus Olds when they netted ten times. The Bandits got scoring from almost everyone with 13 different players getting their names on the box score. Between the pipes, Ethan Barwick stood tall stopping all 14 shots he faced for his second shutout of the season.
Calgary Canucks: 5-28-1 (7th in the South Division)
Weekend Schedule: Friday @ Drumheller Dragons, Sunday vs Canmore Eagles
The Calgary Canucks had a tough start to the week falling 8-1 to the Canmore Eagles on the road. They?ll get a chance at revenge on Sunday night as the Eagles make the trip to the Ken Bracko Arena. Despite that loss midweek, the Canucks have had success against the Eagles with two of their five wins coming against them. Before their matchup on Saturday, Calgary travels to the Drumheller Memorial Arena to take on the Drumheller Dragons.
Camrose Kodiaks: 14-14-3 (4th in the South Division)
Weekend Schedule: Friday @ Olds Grizzlys, Sunday vs Sherwood Park Crusaders
Camrose opens their weekend schedule up later today as they make the short trip to the Olds Sportsplex to face the Grizzlys. They?ve had great success versus the Grizzlys with three wins so far against them this season. Their most recent win came back in October when Erik Miller and Damon Zimmer each had a pair of points in 4-2 victory. Next up, they?ll face an old friend in Jacob Kendall as he and his Crusaders teammates come to town.
Canmore Eagles: 11-17-4 (5th in the South Division)
Weekend Schedule: Saturday vs Drumheller Dragons, Sunday @ Calgary Canucks
The Canmore Eagles had a massive win to begin their week beating the Calgary Canucks 8-1 on home ice. The Lyons brothers, Connor and Cale, each had three-point nights with Connor getting two of the eight goals. They?ll look to stay hot this weekend as they host the Drumheller Dragons on Friday, and then take on those same Canucks on Sunday evening on the road.
Drumheller Dragons: 17-13-3 (3rd in the South Division)
Weekend Schedule: Friday vs Calgary Canucks, Saturday @ Canmore Eagles
The Dragons currently find themselves on a four-game losing streak heading into the weekend. That stat is a little misleading, however, with all but one of those games ending in a one-goal difference or involving an empty net. With games coming up against teams lower than them in the standings, the Calgary Canucks and Canmore Eagles, the Dragons will be hoping to draw nearer to the Oilers in second with two big wins.
Okotoks Oilers: 26-6-2 (2nd in the South Division)
Weekend Schedule: Saturday vs Olds Grizzlys
The Oilers midweek opponents were not very welcoming. Uncharactically, the Oilers allowed 12 goals across two games as they faced off against the Sherwood Park Crusaders and Spruce Grove Saints this week. They?ll look to get back on track Saturday against the Olds Grizzlys in their final game before the Christmas break. The Oilers have taken care of business when they?ve gone up against the Grizzlys this season. In their three previous meetings this season, Okotoks has come away with maximum points in each contest.
Olds Grizzlys: 7-18-5 (6th in the South Division)
Weekend Schedule: Friday vs Camrose Kodiaks, Saturday @ Okotoks Oilers
The Grizzlys will look to put last weekend behind them after they were dominated by the Brooks Bandits 10-0. This weekend, they?ll look to get back on track and pull close to the Canmore Eagles in fifth. First, the Grizzlys host the Camrose Kodiaks at the Olds Sportsplex. However, they haven?t had much success versus the Kodiaks this season falling in their three matchups this year. They?ll close out their weekend on the road against the Oilers, another team they?ve struggled against in the past.