AJHL Weekend Preview: February 21st-23rd

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This is the final weekend of the Alberta Junior Hockey League?s regular season!  This time next week, we?ll be eagerly waiting for the puck to drop on March 1st, which indicates the start of the 2020 Inter Pipeline AJHL Playoffs.

There are still a few things that need to be determined before the playoffs, however, and that could be decided this weekend.

While the first-round matchups are written in stone for the South Division, in the North the third seed is still up for grabs with Whitecourt and Bonnyville battling it out. At the top of the South, Okotoks and Brooks are separated by two points with four games left each.  The two top teams in the South are still battling with the Sherwood Park Crusaders for first overall in the AJHL.

We are in store for another exciting weekend of AJHL hockey.

Bonnyville Pontiacs: 31-21-4 (4th in the North Division)

Weekend Schedule: Friday vs Grande Prairie Storm, Saturday vs Grande Prairie Storm

Bonnyville will be looking to turn their fortunes around at the RJ Lalonde this weekend. After holding onto third in the North Division for the majority of the season, the Pontiacs have slipped into fourth in the division after winning only two games in February. One of those wins came on Monday in a 3-1 win over the Drayton Valley Thunder. Thomas Kramer led the charge with two goals. This weekend, Bonnyville hosts the Grande Prairie Storm for a pair of games. They?ve been perfect against the Storm in their four previous meetings this season with their most recent coming back on November 2nd. Easton Hesse stopped 18 shots on that occasion in a 3-2 win at Revolution Place.

Brooks Bandits: 44-9-2 (2nd in the South Division)

Weekend Schedule: Friday @ Okotoks Oilers, Saturday @ Calgary Canucks

Brooks dominated the Camrose Kodiaks earlier this week putting ten goals by them on home ice. Sean Chisholm and James McIsaac each scored in the opening minute of the game as the Bandits came out 10-3 winners. Corson Ceulemans was unstoppable in the game picking up five assists. That win will be huge for the confidence of the Brooks Bandits especially going into the weekend against the Okotoks Oilers in a must-win game. They?ll follow up that Friday night contest with a visit to the Ken Bracko Arena on Saturday to challenge Calgary Canucks.

Calgary Canucks: 9-45-2 (7th in the South Division)

Weekend Schedule: Friday @ Camrose Kodiaks, Saturday vs Brooks Bandits

The Calgary Canucks playoff dreams were ended last weekend after falling 3-2 Drayton Valley Thunder on Sunday afternoon. Despite that, they?ll look to finish their season in strong form, and that starts with a trip to the Encana Arena to face the Camrose Kodiaks. Following that, the Brooks Bandits are next on the schedule when the Canucks return to home ice. Calgary is yet to beat either the Kodiaks or Bandits this season.

Camrose Kodiaks: 29-24-3 (4th in the South Division)

Weekend Schedule: Friday vs Calgary Canucks, Sunday vs Canmore Eagles

The week started poorly for the Kodiaks. After making the three and half hour journey to Brooks on Monday, they were hammered 10-3 by the Bandits in their worst defeat of the season. Clayton Jardine and his Kodiaks will look to put that defeat behind them, and quickly, as they look to get back in the win column heading into the post-season. Camrose will spend the weekend at home as they host the Calgary Canucks and then the Canmore Eagles in what will be a playoff preview. They?ll look for Cody Laskosky to continue his strong run of goals. Laskosky currently finds himself leading the league with a ten-game goal streak. The New Norway, AB native leads the Kodiaks with 81 points (37 goals, 44 assists) in 54 games.

Canmore Eagles: 22-29-4 (5th in the South Division)

Weekend Schedule: Friday vs Olds Grizzlys, Sunday @ Camrose Kodiaks

Canmore has put together some big wins over the last month. With wins over the Brooks Bandits and Okotoks Oilers, the Eagles camp should be full of belief right now, which is extremely positive heading into the post-season. Over the weekend, they?ll take on the Olds Grizzlys on home ice, who they?ve been perfect against all season long going 5-0. The Eagles then face the Camrose Kodiaks on Sunday in a preview of their first-round matchup.

Drayton Valley Thunder: 25-23-7 (5th in the South Division)

Weekend Schedule: Friday vs Lloydminster Bobcats, Saturday @ Sherwood Park Crusaders

Drayton Valley is going to be seeking revenge on Friday night as they host the Lloydminster Bobcats. In their last encounter, the Thunder dropped a 3-2 decision despite leading 2-0 after 40 minutes. They then hit the road on Saturday to face off against the number one team in the CJHL – the Sherwood Park Crusaders. They?ve struggled against the Crusaders in their previous five meetings. The Thunder have lost on each occasion and have been outscored 21 to 8. Coach Eric Thurston will be looking to turn things around in their final visit to the Sherwood Park Arena this regular season.

Drumheller Dragons: 36-16-6 (3rd in the South Division)

Weekend Schedule: Saturday @ Olds Grizzlys, Sunday @ Okotoks Oilers

The Dragons have been breathing red-hot fire since the start of 2020. They?ve lost only three times in the first two months and are on a nine-game winning streak. Eric Martin has played a massive role in that success. The Dragons forward has a league-leading 18 game point streak and has 32 points over that streak. Martin and his Dragons hit the road for a pair of games this weekend. First, they?re up against the Olds Grizzlys, who they beat 6-0 in their last meeting earlier this month. Next up are they Okotoks Oilers, who they met just last weekend. Brady Risk, Kobe Mohr and Peyton McKenzie got the goals in a 3-1 win.

Fort McMurray Oil Barons: 19-34-4 (7th in the North Division)

Weekend Schedule: Friday vs Grande Prairie Storm

Only one more game for the Fort McMurray Oil Barons this regular season, and that contest happens on Friday night at the Casman Centre. The Grande Prairie Storm will be the opponents and the Oil Barons couldn?t be facing them at a better time as the Storm find themselves on an 11-game losing streak. The MOB have beaten the Storm three out of five times this season. They last met on January 25th at Revolution Place. Michael Hodge scored the lone goal of the shootout to give the Oil Barons a 4-3 win.

Grande Prairie Storm: 18-29-7 (6th in the North Division)

Weekend Schedule: Friday @ Fort McMurray Oil Barons, Saturday @ Bonnyville Pontiacs, Sunday @ Bonnyville Pontiacs.

Grande Prairie is going to get three attempts this weekend to snap their 11-game losing streak. They?ll stay in Northern Alberta on Friday night as they travel to the Casman Centre to face the Oil Barons. The Storm came close to beating the MOB twice at the backend of January, but fell short in the shootout on both occasions. They head a little further south for the rest of the weekend. They?ll call the town of Bonnyville home on Saturday and Sunday as they take on the Pontiacs. Grande Prairie hasn?t had much success versus the Pontiacs in their four meetings this season falling on each occasion.

Lloydminster Bobcats: 9-40-6 (8th in the North Division)

Weekend Schedule: Friday @ Drayton Valley Thunder, Saturday @ Whitecourt Wolverines

The Bobcats got a huge win last week defeating the Sherwood Park Crusaders 5-2 on home ice; however, they weren?t able to repeat that same success on Monday falling 7-0 on the road to those same Crusaders. Lloydminster can no longer make the post-season, but rounding out the season in a positive manner will be on their minds. First up, a trip to the Drayton Valley Omniplex is on the schedule. They fought back from 2-0 down to beat the Thunder 3-2 a couple of weeks ago, which should give them plenty of confidence heading into that contest. Next up, they challenge the Whitecourt Wolverines who they fell just short against at the start of the month when Ryan Wallz got the lone goal of the game.

Okotoks Oilers: 44-7-4 (1st in the South Division)

Weekend Schedule: Friday vs Brooks Bandits, Sunday @ Drumheller Dragons

It?s rinse and repeat for the Okotoks Oilers as they go up against the Brooks Bandits and Drumheller Dragons – their same opponents from last weekend. The only difference from the last time is the venue. The Oilers have had the Bandits number in their last few meetings with 5-4, 2-1, 6-4 wins coming against them including one that ended Brooks? 53 game home winning streak. On Sunday, they?ll look for some revenge as they go up against the Dragons. Last Saturday, Drumheller went into Okotoks and left 3-1 winners against the number one team in the South Division. It?s a tough weekend for the Oilers, but a couple of wins could help them secure top spot in the AJHL depending on how the Crusaders perform.

Olds Grizzlys: 10-38-6 (6th in the South Division)

Weekend Schedule: Friday @ Canmore Eagles, Saturday vs Drumheller Dragons

February has been a tough month for the Olds Grizzlys. The Grizzlys only have one win to their name, which came against the Fort McMurray Oil Barons on February 8th. Olds jumped out to a 2-0 lead after 20 minutes thanks to goals from Hoon Kim and Zafir Rawji. After that, they never looked back and came out 5-2 winners. This weekend, they?ll look to turn it all around and head into the post-season in the win column. They?ll go up against the Canmore Eagles and Drumheller Dragons.

Sherwood Park Crusaders: 46-8-0 (1st in the North Division)

Weekend Schedule: Saturday vs Drayton Valley Thunder, Sunday vs Spruce Grove Saints.

The Sherwood Park Crusaders secured their second consecutive first-round bye last Friday night with a 5-4 SO win over the Fort McMurray Oil Barons. They celebrated that success with a massive 7-0 victory on Monday versus the Lloydminster Bobcats. Carter Savoie scored his 50th goal in that contest with the assist coming from Arjun Atwal which was his 100th point of the season. With the first-round bye secured, the main goal for Sherwood Park now will be to finish atop of the AJHL. A pair of wins against Drayton Valley and Spruce Grove this weekend would go along way in that department.

Spruce Grove Saints: 40-13-2 (2nd in the North Division)

Weekend Schedule: Friday @ Whitecourt Wolverines, Sunday @ Sherwood Park Crusaders

Spruce Grove hits the road for a pair of games against the first and third placed teams in the North Division. First will be a revenge game versus the Whitecourt Wolverines tonight. The Saints fell 3-2 to the Wolverines earlier this week despite leading 1-0 early in the second. They?ll close out the weekend against their bitter rivals the Sherwood Park Crusaders.

Whitecourt Wolverines: 31-16-7 (3rd in the North Division)

Weekend Schedule: Friday vs Spruce Grove Saints, Saturday vs Lloydminster Bobcats

Whitecourt has been in top form since the dawn of the new decade. They?ve overtaken the Bonnyville Pontiacs and made third place in the North Division their own. They sit three points up on the Pontiacs with four games left on their schedule. Two of those games are coming up this weekend at the Scott Safety Centre. First are the Spruce Grove Saints who they beat earlier this week. Three goals in the second period from Ryan Wallz, Adam Sandstrom and Ethan Leyer helped them overcome a 1-0 deficit and come away, 3-2 winners. They?ll then close out the weekend against the Lloydminster Bobcats who they beat 1-0 at the start of February.

By Liam Horrobin