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We?re getting down to crunch time in the Alberta Junior Hockey League! The next few game and weeks will determine playoff match ups and teams can begin to prepare for their post-season schedules.
Bonnyville Pontiacs: 30-17-4 (3rd in the North Division)
Weekend Schedule: Friday @ Camrose Kodiaks, Sunday @ Sherwood Park Crusaders
Bonnyville came away with a narrow victory on Wednesday night over the Lloydminster Bobcats. After leading 4-1, the Pontiacs let their lead slip and let the Bobcats right back into the game, allowing four goals in the final ten minutes of the second period. However, Lucas Thorne (College of Holy Cross) tied the game for Bonnyville early in the third. The game would go to a shootout which was eventually won by the Pontiacs thanks to goals from Thorne and Daine Dubois. This weekend, Bonnyville hit the road for a pair of games against the Camrose Kodiaks and Sherwood Park Crusaders as they look to separate themselves from Whitecourt in fourth.
Brooks Bandits: 40-9-1 (2nd in the South Division)
Weekend Schedule: Friday vs Fort McMurray Oil Barons, Saturday vs Whitecourt Wolverines
The Brooks Bandits find themselves in uncharted territory after going winless in their last four games. You have to go back to 2010 to find the last time the defending National Champions lost four games in a row. The Bandits will look to get back in the win column over the weekend as they return to home ice. Fort McMurray is up first on Friday night, which is then followed by a trip to the Scott Safety Centre to challenge the Whitecourt Wolverines. Brooks has faced each them earlier season coming away with two 3-2 wins over the Oil Barons – one in a shootout – and an 11-2 stomping against the Wolverines.
Calgary Canucks: 8-42-2 (7th in the South Division)
Weekend Schedule: Friday vs Whitecourt Wolverines
Only one game on the schedule for the Canucks this weekend, which comes against the Whitecourt Wolverines. That game come after Calgary put five by the Fort McMurray Oil Barons yesterday to beat them 5-3 on home ice. Mart Corbett scored his first AJHL goal while Connor Martin made 28 saves between the pipes in the win. Their game against the Wolverines comes on Friday night at the Ken Bracko Arena. They lost to the Wolverines back at the AJHL Showcase after they conceded twice in the back half of the final frame.
Camrose Kodiaks: 26-21-3 (4th in the South Division)
Weekend Schedule: Friday vs Bonnyville Pontiacs, Saturday @ Drumheller Dragons
Camrose came away with two points on Tuesday night against Whitecourt thanks to an overtime winner from McKenzie Welke. That win made it three in a row for the Kodiaks, who sit comfortably in fourth in the south with a nine-point cushion over the Canmore Eagles in fifth. They?ll look to strengthen that gap this weekend as they go up against the Bonnyville Pontiacs at home, and then the Drumheller Dragons on the road. Cody Laskosky (RIT) will also look to extend his league-leading four-game goal streak.
Canmore Eagles: 21-25-4 (5th in the South Division)
Weekend Schedule: Friday @ Okotoks Oilers, Saturday vs Okotoks Oilers
It was an exciting night at the Canmore Recreation Centre on Tuesday. After beating the Brooks Bandits on Saturday on the road, the Eagles did the same again putting five past Pierce Charlson in a 5-4 victory over the defending CJHL National Champions. Both Alex Young (Colgate University) and Connor Lyons each finished with three points in the win. The challenging opposition continues this weekend as they go up against the Okotoks Oilers on the road and then back on home ice. They?ll look to improve on their previous performances against the Oilers as they?ve gone 0-4 against them this season. Their most recent matchup came in late January when Okotoks beat them 6-2 in Canmore.
Drayton Valley Thunder: 21-21-7 (5th in the South Division)
Weekend Schedule: Friday vs Grande Prairie Storm, Saturday @ Lloydminster Bobcats
With eight games left in the regular season, the Thunder are looking to build some more separation between themselves and the Grande Prairie Storm in sixth. The gap is currently seven points in favour of Drayton Valley. Those same Storm will be in town on Friday night. The three meetings between them have been close so far this year with the Thunder getting the upper hand on two occasions. On Saturday, they then hit the road to face the Lloydminster Bobcats who they last met on January 26th. Jackson Berry stopped 24 shots in a 4-0 victory that night.
Drumheller Dragons: 31-16-6 (3rd in the South Division)
Weekend Schedule: Saturday vs Camrose Kodiaks, Sunday vs Olds Grizzlys
Drumheller has been dominant in the last ten games, losing only once to the Sherwood Park Crusaders. Eric Martin (Bemidji State University) has played a massive role in their recent success. The second-year Dragons is on a 13-game point streak which is tied with Arjun Atwal of the Crusaders for first in the AJHL. Daniel Allin (University of Alaska-Fairbanks) has also been remarkable since returning posting a 1.17 GAA and a 0.959 SV%. The Dragons will look for Martin and Allin to continue their strong form as they take on the Camrose Kodiaks and Olds Grizzlys at the Drumheller Memorial Arena this weekend.
Fort McMurray Oil Barons: 18-32-3 (7th in the North Division)
Weekend Schedule: Friday @ Brooks Bandits, Saturday @ Olds Grizzlys
Fort McMurray?s Southern Alberta road trip didn?t get off to an ideal start last night falling 5-3 to the Calgary Canucks. Michael Hodge scored a pair of goals to take his tally to 26 on the season. They?ll need him to in top form over the weekend when they go up against the Brooks Bandits and Olds Grizzlys. The MOB have played well against the Bandits in their previous two meetings but were unable to come away with two points. However, they were able to defeat the Olds Grizzlys, which happened at the start of February. Hunter Lamb picked up four points in a 6-3 win that evening.
Grande Prairie Storm: 18-24-6 (6th in the North Division)
Weekend Schedule: Friday @ Drayton Valley Thunder, Saturday @ Sherwood Park Crusaders, Sunday @ Spruce Grove Saints
This weekend is a massively important one for the Grande Prairie Storm. With only ten games left in the season, the Storm are looking to narrow the gap between themselves and the Drayton Valley Thunder in fifth, and this weekend could play a big part in their playoff seeding. First up, they?ll play the Thunder on the road where they are yet to win this season. Sherwood Park and Spruce Grove will be next on the calendar. They came away with a 3-2 win over the Crusaders in their last visit to the Sherwood Park Arena; however, they faced those same Crusaders last weekend and managed to score only once while conceding eight times in two games. Finally, against the Saints this season, the Storm have beaten them twice with both of those wins at Revolution Arena.
Lloydminster Bobcats: 7-38-5 (8th in the North Division)
Weekend Schedule: Friday vs Spruce Grove Saints, Saturday vs Drayton Valley Thunder
The Bobcats fell just short of two points on Wednesday night in Bonnyville after fighting back from a 4-1 first period deficit. The Pontiacs eventually came away winners after the shootout; however, the Bobcats showed great character and resilience which should help them this weekend. They?ll be back on home ice against the Spruce Grove Saints on Friday and then the Drayton Valley Thunder on Saturday.
Okotoks Oilers: 41-6-3 (1st in the South Division)
Weekend Schedule: Friday vs Canmore Eagles, Saturday @ Canmore Eagles
The Oilers have turned on the jets and climbed their way to the top of the standings. Last weekend, Okotoks ended the Bandits 53 game home win streak with a dominating 6-2 victory. Rookie forward Dylan James (University of North Dakota) put together his fourth three-point game of the season. The Oilers currently sit first in the AJHL with 85 points. They?ll look to extend their lead with two games against the Canmore Eagles this weekend. They?ve been dominant versus the Eagles this season beating them on all four occasions and outscoring them 24-9.
Olds Grizzlys: 9-35-6 (6th in the South Division)
Weekend Schedule: Saturday vs Fort McMurray Oil Barons, Sunday @ Drumheller Dragons
Off the ice, the Olds Grizzlys signed local product Jordan Saunders for the 2020/21 season. Grizzly fans might be familiar with him as he has dressed for Olds four times this year. On the ice, Olds has been struggling and are currently on a nine-game losing streak. They?ll look to snap that streak over the weekend when they challenge the Fort McMurray Oil Barons and the Drumheller Dragons.
Sherwood Park Crusaders: 42-7-0 (1st in the North Division)
Weekend Schedule: Saturday vs Grande Prairie Storm, Sunday vs Bonnyville Pontiacs
The Sherwood Park Crusaders return to the Sherwood Park Arena after spending the previous two weekends on the road. Sherwood Park needs only six points to secure a first-round bye. They?ll be looking to make it only two points with two games coming up this weekend against the Grande Prairie Storm and Bonnyville Pontiacs. The Crusaders met the Storm just last weekend on the road and came away with maximum points while conceding only once. However, they?ll be looking for revenge against the Pontiacs after they fell 3-2 to them on the road. Saturday?s game against Grande Prairie will be a special one for the Crusaders captain Arjun Atwal who will dress in his 200th Junior game.
Spruce Grove Saints: 36-12-2 (2nd in the North Division)
Weekend Schedule: Friday @ Lloydminster Bobcats, Sunday vs Grande Prairie Storm
Spruce Grove was hit with some great news as forward Brayden Nicholetts announced his commitment to the University of Alaska-Fairbanks making him the eighth Saint to a commit to an NCAA Division I school. The Saints will look to celebrate the news with a couple of wins this weekend against the Lloydminster Bobcats and Grande Prairie Storm. Spruce Grove has done well versus the Bobcats this season beating them on all five occasions. However, the same cannot be said about the Storm who they?ve lost to twice. Despite that, the Saints have been solid at the Grant Fuhr Arena where they?ve beaten the Storm in their only two home matchups.
Whitecourt Wolverines: 28-15-7 (4th in the North Division)
Weekend Schedule: Friday @ Calgary Canucks, Saturday @ Brooks Bandits
The Wolverines continue their Southern Alberta road trip versus the Calgary Canucks and Brooks Bandits. Whitecourt?s week began on Tuesday in Camrose where they fell in overtime 4-3 to the Kodiaks. They followed that up with a dominant 5-1 win over the Olds Grizzlys with Kaleb Ergang and Ethan Leyer (St Cloud University) each scoring three points. Recently, the Wolverines have tightened the gap between themselves and Bonnyville in third to only one point with a game in hand. A couple of wins this weekend could go a long way for them.
Story by Liam Horrobin