AJHL Weekend Preview: December 16th – 18th

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It's the final weekend before Christmas and every team in the AJHL will be looking for some early presents in the form of wins.

Bonnyville Pontiacs (23-9-3–49 pts) 2nd in the North

Last week: 5-2 loss (Dec 9th) @ Brooks, 5-1 loss (Dec 10th) @ Drumheller

This weekend: Friday @ Calgary Canucks, Saturday @ Okotoks, Sunday @ Olds

The Pontiacs continue their season high 11 game (7 game South) road trip that has seen them go 4-3 so far. Taking a look at the three games for Bonnyville this weekend. Friday will be the third and final meeting of the season against the Calgary Canucks. Both teams have tasted victory against one another. Saturday the Pontiacs will look to even their season series with the Oilers as the two teams meet for the final time (this season), Okotoks doubled up Bonnyville 4-2 in their first matchup of the season. Ryan Piche (goal, assist) led the Pontiacs in the 4-2 set back on October 29th. Sunday will be the first of two meetings between the Pontiacs and Grizzlys, it will also be the final game of 2016 for Bonnyville.

Drayton Valley Thunder (8-23-4–20 pts) 7th in the North

Last week: 6-3 win (Dec 9th) @ Mustangs, 7-2 loss (Dec 10th) @ Canmore, 5-3 loss (Dec 14th) @ Sherwood Park

Grande Prairie Storm (8-23-5–21 pts) 6th in the North

Last week: 3-2 loss (Dec 9th) vs. Lloydminster, 3-0 win (Dec 10th) vs. Lloydminster

This weekend: Friday GP @ Spruce Grove, Saturday GP @ DV, Sunday GP @ DV

The Grande Prairie Storm and Drayton Valley Thunder will meet up for the fourth and fifth time this season on the weekend. Before that, the Storm will be in Spruce Grove for the fourth matchup of the season against the Saints. Taking a look at the previous games between the Storm and Saints. On October 8th Logan Mazerolle's two goals led the Storm to a 4-2 victory over Spruce Grove. The next two games didn't go as planned for the Storm. Despite two goals from Michael Clarke, the Saints would skate away with a 5-3 win on November 11th. Nearly two weeks later the Spruce Grove defense flexed their muscles in a 3-1 win. Grande Prairie has had a lot of success against Drayton Valley this season, winning all three games. The two teams would get into a scoring fest in their first meeting of the season on September 23rd as Grande Prairie doubled up Drayton Valley 8-4. Michael Clarke, Jake Elmer, and Cruz Cote each had two goals and a helper for the Storm while Chris Breese scored a pair of goals for the Thunder in the loss. The next night the defenses would come out to play, but the Storm would earn a 4-1 victory. Once again Michael Clarke led the offense with two goals. The two teams last met in Grande Prairie two weeks ago. The Storm would score three third period goals to come from behind to defeat the Thunder 5-3. Andrew Troy and Rhett Willcox each had two assists for Drayton Valley in the loss while Alex Grollman and Demetrius Kambeitz had a goal and an assist for Grande Prairie. The Storm enter the weekend with just a one point cushion on Drayton Valley for six seed.

Fort McMurray Oil Barons (23-8-1–47 pts) 3rd in the North

Last week: no games

this weekend: Friday @ Mustangs, Saturday @ Brooks, Sunday @ Canucks

Similar to the Bonnyville Pontiacs and Lloydminster Bobcats the Fort McMurray Oil Barons will be on the road in the South Division this weekend. This weekend will be the first time the Oil Barons will take on the two Calgary teams while Saturday will be the third and final meeting of the season for Fort McMurray and Brooks. At Showcase Weekend Ryan Cox had a goal and three assists to lead the Oil Barons to a 4-2 victory over the Bandits. A month after that Fort McMurray couldn't muster much offense in a 4-1 loss. Fort McMurray enters the weekend with a one point lead on Spruce Grove but also trail Bonnyville for second by just two points.

Lloydminster Bobcats (8-21-2–18 pts) 8th in the North

Last week: 3-2 win (Dec 9th) @ Grande Prairie, 3-0 loss (Dec 10th) @ Grande Prairie, 7-3 loss (Dec 11th) @ Whitecourt

This weekend: Friday @ Brooks, Saturday @ Canmore, Sunday @ Mustangs

Lloydminster continues their eight game road trip with three games in two and half days. Thus far on the road trip, the Bobcats are 2-2 but have dropped their last two games. This weekend will be the final time this season that Lloydminster takes on Brooks, Canmore, and Calgary. Earlier this month Lloydminster hosted Brooks in a very one side game that saw the Bandits come away with a 7-0 victory, the Bobcats will attempt to return the favor as they continue their road trip. Saturday the Bobcats will try to sweep the season series with the Canmore Eagles. Zach Kaiser scored a goal and added a helper while Austin McGrath made 39 saves in a 4-1 win on November 18th. Finally, on Sunday the weekend finish up with the third meeting of the season against the Calgary Mustangs.  The two teams first met a Showcase Weekend where the Mustangs would pick up a 4-2 win. Just over a month later Zach Kaiser assisted on both Lloydminster goals while Jeremy Kelleway made 41 saves in a 2-1 victory over Calgary.

Sherwood Park Crusaders (18-14-1–37 pts) 5th in the North

Last week: 5-4 win (Dec 9th) @ Drumheller, 5-1 loss (Dec 10th) @ Brooks, 5-3 win (Dec 14th) vs. Drayton Valley

Whitecourt Wolverines (24-8-4–52 pts) 1st in the North

Last week: 5-3 loss (Dec 10th) @ Spruce Grove, 7-3 win (Dec 11th) vs. Lloydminster

This weekend: Friday SP @ Wct, Saturday Wct @ SP

For the third and fourth time this season, the Wolverines and Crusaders will meet up in a home and home series this weekend. In two games this season Whitecourt and Sherwood Park have combined for 23 goals. On their first meeting of the season on October 4th, Bryson Traptow had a goal and four assists to lead the Wolverines to an 8-5 win on home ice. Just over a month later in Sherwood Park Ty Readman had two goals and two assists as the Crusaders knocked off the Wolverines 8-5. Both Whitecourt and Sherwood Park will play once more after this weekend before concluding the 2016 part of the schedule.

Spruce Grove Saints (22-10-2–46 pts) 4th in the North

Last week: 5-3 loss (Dec 9th) @ Camrose, 5-3 win (Dec 10th) vs. Whitecourt, 5-4 loss (Dec (13th) @ Olds

This weekend: Friday vs. Grande Prairie, Saturday vs. Olds

The Saints will open up a three game home stand to finish off 2016 with two games this weekend. Friday will be the fourth meeting of the season. Spruce Grove didn't have a great start to the season series with the Storm dropping their first meeting on October 8th by a 4-2 score. On November 11th the Saints Josh Harris would score twice and added two assists as Spruce Grove evened the season series with a 5-3 win. Nearly two weeks later Harris was back at it chipping in on two of the Saints three goals while Nolan Kent made 27 saves as the Saints earned a 3-1 win. On Saturday Spruce Grove and Olds will meet up for the second time in a week. On Tuesday Brett Smythe had a goal and two assists, but Spruce Grove would end up on the wrong side of a 5-4 score.

Brooks Bandits (25-3-4–54 pts) 1st in the South

Last week: 5-2 win (Dec 9th) vs. Bonnyville, 5-1 win (Dec 10th) vs. Sherwood Park, 5-4 win (Dec 14th) @ Drumheller

This weekend: Friday vs. Lloydminster, Saturday vs. Fort McMurray

The Brooks Bandits will finish off 2016 with a three game home stand with two of those three games coming this weekend against a pair of North Division opponents. Friday it will be the second and final meeting of the season against the Lloydminster Bobcats. At the start of the month (December 3rd), the Bandits were led by Cale Makar's three assists as they dominated Lloydminster to the tune of 7-0. The home stand continues on Saturday as they play Fort McMurray for the third and final time this season. At Showcase weekend Brooks would fall 4-2 to Fort McMurray but rebounded with a 4-1 win led by Parker Foo (2 goals) and Mitchel Benson (19 saves) a month later.

Calgary Canucks (22-12-1–45 pts) 3rd in the South

Last week: 5-1 loss (Dec 9th) @ Okotoks, 4-2 loss (Dec 10th) @ Camrose, 4-3 loss (Dec 14th) vs. Okotoks

This weekend: Friday vs. Bonnyville, Sunday vs. Fort McMurray

December hasn't been kind to the Canucks as they have gone 1-4 which include a current four game losing streak. Friday will see the Canucks take on the Bonnyville Pontiacs for the third and final time this season. At Showcase Weekend Calgary upended Bonnyville 6-3, Andrew Marshall was the powerhouse offensively for the Canucks tallying three goals.  Unfortunately for Calgary things didn't go their way in Bonnyville on November 18th as the Pontiacs doubled up the Canucks 4-2. Sunday will be the first time that Fort McMurray and Calgary will meet up. Sunday will be the final game of the 2016 part of the season for the Canucks.

Calgary Mustangs (5-26-2–12 pts) 8th in the South

Last week: 6-3 loss (Dec 9th) vs. Drayton Valley, 4-3 OTL (Dec 13th) vs. Drumheller

This weekend: Friday vs. Fort McMurray, Sunday vs. Lloydminster

The Calgary Mustangs will wrap up their six game home stand (1-2-1) with a pair of games against the North this weekend.  The Mustangs will welcome Fort McMurray to the FDB for the only time this season as the two teams play their first matchup. Sunday will be the third and final meeting of the season between the two clubs. Kylor Wall had two goals in Calgary's first win of the season (4-2) over the Bobcats. Just over a month later the Mustangs fired 42 shots on goal but would come up on the losing end of a 2-1 final.

Camrose Kodiaks (19-13-3–41 pts) 4th in the South

Last week: 5-3 win (Dec 9th) vs. Spruce Grove, 4-2 win (Dec 10th) vs. Canucks, 4-1 loss (Dec 13th) vs. Canmore

Drumheller Dragons (15-3-4–34 pts) 6th in the South

Last week: 5-4 loss (Dec 9th) vs. Sherwood Park, 5-1 win (Dec 10th) vs. Bonnyville, 4-3 OTW (Dec 13th) @ Mustangs, 5-4 loss (Dec 14th) vs. Brooks

This weekend: Friday Cam @ Drum, Saturday Drum @ Cam

This weekend will be the final two games of the regular season between the Drumheller Dragons and Camrose Kodiaks. Camrose has won all four previous games between the two clubs. On opening night Liam Motley had a hat trick and two assists as the Kodiaks knocked off Drumheller 6-4. A month later the Kodiaks erased a 4-1 deficit with three third period goals including two (Cooper Johnson and Mackenzie Bauer) shorthanded markers. Later in October Patrick Gora turned aside 28 shots and the Kodiaks would dominate the Dragons by a 4-1 score. The woes for Drumheller continued against the Kodiaks on November 18th as Bryson Traptow scored once and added two assists in a 5-2 win for Camrose.

Canmore Eagles (17-11-4–38 pts) 5th in the South

Last week: 6-5 SOW (Dec 9th) @ Olds, 7-2 win (Dec 10th) vs. Drayton Valley, 4-1 win (Dec 13th) @ Camrose

This weekend: Friday vs. Okotoks, Saturday vs. Lloydminster

With three games left in 2016 for Canmore, they will look to improve upon their 4-1 record this month which has kept them in the mix for the top four spots in the South. Friday will mark the third meeting of the season between the Okotoks and Canmore. On October 25th Bryce Platt had two goals and one assist as the Eagles outlasted the Oilers 5-1. Just two weeks later Canmore would get a late third period goal to force overtime, but the Oilers would earn a 3-2 win early in overtime. Saturday the Eagles will look to avenge a 4-1 setback to Lloydminster in November.

Okotoks Oilers (20-8-5–45 pts) 2nd in the South

Last week: 5-1 win (Dec 9th) vs. Canucks, 3-2 SOL (Dec 10th) vs. Olds, 4-3 win (Dec 14th) @ Canucks

This weekend: Friday at Canmore, Saturday vs. Bonnyville

The Okotoks Oilers have points in their last four games (3-0-1) which have moved them into a tie for the second spot in the South Division. Friday the Oilers and Eagles will meet for the third time this season. Okotoks fell 5-1 in their first game against Canmore on October 25th. Just two weeks later Trey Degraaf would score the winning goal just 51 seconds into overtime, and Tanner Laderoute scored twice in regulation as the Oilers would earn a 3-2 win. Saturday will be the second and last time this season that Okotoks and Bonnyville will meet up. On October 29th Cooper Page had a goal and one assist while Riley Morris made 20 saves as Okotoks would double up Bonnyville 4-2.

Olds Grizzlys (11-16-5–27 pts) 7th in the South

Last week:  6-5 SOL (Dec 9th) vs. Canmore, 3-2 SOW (Dec 10th) @ Okotoks, 5-4 win (Dec 13th) vs. Spruce Grove

This weekend: Saturday at Spruce Grove, Sunday vs. Bonnyville

With five points (2-0-1) in their last three games, the Olds Grizzlys have put a bit of a cushion between themselves and the Calgary Mustangs and are within striking distance of the Dragons. For the second time this week the Grizzlys and Saints will do battle. Try Thompson had three assists while Jared Power scored twice as Olds edged Spruce Grove 5-4. Sunday the first of two meetings between the Grizzlys and Pontiacs this season. The two teams will play in Bonnyville on February 17th.

Story by Chris Colwell @Cjcolwell