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Midway through January and already five teams (Brooks, Okotoks, Canucks, Whitecourt and Fort McMurray) have clinched playoff spots with the possibility of four more teams (Spruce Grove, Bonnyville, Canmore, Camrose) wrapping up spots this weekend.
Brooks Bandits 34-3-4 72 points 1st in the South
Last week: 6-2 win @ Canmore (Jan 13th), 3-2 SOW @ Canmore (Jan 14th), 5-2 win @ Camrose (Jan 17th)
This weekend: Friday vs. Mustangs, Saturday vs. Canucks
The last time the Bandits faced the Calgary Mustangs was on October 23rd, it was also the last time the Bandits have lost in regulation. Since falling 3-2 to the Mustangs in October, the Bandits have gone 26-0-2 and are tops in the South Division and AJHL. The Bandits have already clinched a spot in the playoffs are now look to check off the next box in the playoff picture, and that's clinching home ice advantage in the first round. Although Brooks can't clinch home ice in the first round this weekend, they inch closer with a pair of wins against the two Calgary teams. Head to head this season Brooks is 1-0 (2-0 win) against the Canucks and 1-1 against the Mustangs.
Calgary Canucks 27-13-3 57 points 3rd in the South
Last week: 4-2 loss @ Sherwood Park (Jan 13th), 5-4 OTL @ Fort McMurray (Jan 14th), 4-1 win vs. Okotoks (Jan 18th)
This weekend: Saturday @ Brooks, Sunday @ Drumheller
The Calgary Canucks will be riding high following a 4-1 win over Okotoks on Wednesday as they start a two game road trip in Brooks and Drumheller this weekend. Calgary enters the weekend two points behind the Oilers for second in the South and have an eight point lead on Canmore and Camrose for third. Saturday will be just the second time this season that the Canucks and Bandits will have met up. Meanwhile, on Sunday the Canucks will look to remain perfect against the Dragons as they play for the fourth time this season.
Calgary Mustangs 7-34-2 16 points 8th in the South
Last week: 4-1 loss @ Fort McMurray (Jan 13th), 7-4 loss @ Sherwood Park (Jan 14th), 5-3 win vs. Drumheller (Jan 17th)
This weekend: Friday @ Brooks
Similar to their cross town rivals (Canucks) the Mustangs will be going into Brooks with a bit of a high following their 5-3 win over Drumheller on Tuesday. The win was the first of 2017 for the Mustangs who snapped a seven game slide. It's no secret the Mustangs will probably not be going to the post season for a second straight season, but the team will still try and finish strong.
Camrose Kodiaks 23-18-3 49 points tied for 4th in the South
Last week: 4-0 loss vs. Whitecourt (Jan 13th), 2-0 win vs. Okotoks (Jan 14th), 5-2 loss vs. Brooks (Jan 17th)
Lloydminster Bobcats 9-29-3 21 points 8th in the North
Last week: 5-1 loss @ Grande Prairie (Jan 13th), 3-2 OTL @ Drayton Valley (Jan 14th)
This weekend: Friday @ Lloydminster, Saturday @ Camrose
The Kodiaks and Bobcats will play a home and home this weekend that could determine a couple of teams playoff spots in both the North and South. With a win or Mustangs loss on Friday in Brooks the Camrose Kodiaks would clinch a playoff spot. If the Kodiaks can sweep the home and home against Lloydminster, then both Spruce Grove and Bonnyville will clinch playoff spots. The Bobcats are looking to snap a four game losing streak while the Kodiaks will be looking to bounce back from a 5-2 set back on Tuesday.
Canmore Eagles 22-15-5 49 points tied for 4th in the South
Last week: 6-2 loss vs. Brooks (Jan 13th), 3-2 SOL vs. Brooks (Jan 14th)
This weekend: Friday vs. Fort McMurray, Saturday vs. Spruce Grove
The Canmore Eagles have an opportunity to clinch a playoff spot this weekend. With an Eagles win or Mustangs loss Canmore could become the 4th or 5th team in the South Division to clinch a playoff spot. Canmore will be scoreboard watching as well as they enter the weekend tied for 4th in the division with Camrose who will be playing a home and home against Lloydminster. Canmore had a rough start to their four game home stand falling in both their games last weekend against Brooks. The homestand doesn't get any easier as they welcome Fort McMurray and Spruce Grove to the Recreation Center. The Eagles haven't seen the Saints since they lost 3-2 in overtime at Showcase Weekend. Canmore is 0-1-1 against Spruce Grove, meanwhile, in the only meeting of the season against Fort McMurray the Eagles fell 6-3.
Drumheller Dragons 19-20-4 42 points 6th in the South
Last week: 1-0 win @ Spruce Grove (Jan 13th), 5-1 loss @ Okotoks (Jan 15th), 5-3 loss @ Mustangs (Jan 17th)
This weekend: Friday vs. Olds
Drumheller will look to close the gap on a playoff spot and also extend their lead over the Grizzlys when the two teams meet up on Friday in Drumheller. The Dragons have taken two of the first three meetings between the two clubs. Drumheller enters the weekend needing any combination of four wins or four Mustangs losses to clinch a playoff spot.
Okotoks Oilers 27-12-5 49 points 2nd in the South
Last week: 2-0 loss @ Camrose (Jan 14th), 5-1 win vs. Drumheller (Jan 15th), 4-1 loss @ Canucks (Jan 18th)
This weekend: Friday vs. Spruce Grove, Saturday vs. Fort McMurray
The Oilers open a three game home stand with a pair of games this weekend. Okotoks has won six straight home games. The Oilers have already clinched a playoff spot and are just 22 points away from clinching home ice advantage in the opening round. Okotoks will be looking to split the season series with both Fort McMurray and Spruce Grove. Against the North this year the Oilers are 9-4-2 and will be looking for some key points at the Pason Centennial Arena this weekend.
Olds Grizzlys 12-25-5 29 points 7th in the South
Last week: 6-3 loss vs. Drayton Valley (Jan 13th), 3-1 loss vs. Whitecourt (Jan 14th)
This weekend: Friday @ Drumheller, Saturday vs. Fort McMurray
January hasn't been kind to the Grizzlys since a 6-2 win over the Mustangs in their first game of the year as the Grizz have lost five straight games. Olds has a 13 point lead on the Mustangs for the final playoff spot in the South. Friday will be the fourth meeting of the season against the Dragons with the Grizzlys having won just one of three games so far this season. Sunday will be the first time this season that the Grizzlys will take on the Fort McMurray Oil Barons.
Bonnyville Pontiacs 26-12-4 56 points 4th in the North
Last week: 7-4 win @ Sherwood Park (Jan 18th)
This weekend: Friday vs. Grande Prairie, Saturday vs. Grande Prairie
The Bonnyville Pontiacs enter the weekend needing three points to clinch a playoff spot as they get set to host the Grande Prairie Storm for a pair of games this weekend. The Pontiacs have won all three games between the two clubs thus far, outscoring the Storm 17-7 in those games. Bonnyville is trying to keep Whitecourt, Fort McMurray, and Spruce Grove within catching distance and can do that with a pair of home wins against the Storm.
Drayton Valley Thunder 11-28-4 26 points 7th in the North
Last week: 6-3 win @ Olds (Jan 13th), 3-2 OTW vs. Lloydminster (Jan 14th)
This weekend: Friday @ Whitecourt
It's been a good start to January for the Thunder who have gone 3-2 in five games which have given them a five point lead on the last place Bobcats. Drayton Valley has had a lot of success against their opposition this weekend posting a 3-1 record against the Wolverines in four games. The only game that the Thunder have lost to Whitecourt was a 7-1 drubbing by the Wolverines to finish off 2016.
Fort McMurray Oil Barons 30-10-1 61 points 2nd in the North
Last week: 4-1 win vs. Mustangs (Jan 13th), 5-4 OTW vs. Canucks (Jan 14th)
This weekend: Friday @ Canmore, Saturday @ Okotoks, Sunday @ Olds
The Fort McMurray Oil Barons enter the weekend on a six game winning streak having not lost in their four games in 2017. It will be a busy weekend for the Oil Barons who will play three games in two and half days in the south. Fort McMurray has had a lot of success against the South going 11-2-1 so far this season. The Oil Barons have already defeated Canmore and Okotoks while Sunday will be the first time this season that Fort McMurray will see Olds. The Oil Barons have already checked off the first playoff box and are now setting their sights on home ice advantage. The magic number to clinch home ice advantage is 12 wins or 24 points.
Grande Prairie Storm 12-27-6 30 points 6th in the North
Last week: 5-1 win vs. Lloydminster (Jan 13th)
This weekend: Friday @ Bonnyville, Saturday @ Bonnyville, Sunday @ Sherwood Park
Grande Prairie will play their final three games of January this weekend as they start a six game road trip. Friday and Saturday will be the fourth and fifth time this season that the two teams will meet up. The Storm have lost all three games to the Pontiacs so far by a combined score of 17-7. Sunday will be the fourth time this season that Grande Prairie and Sherwood Park will play each other. The Crusaders have won the previous two meetings with one of those games going to overtime. Grande Prairie's magic number to clinch a playoff spot is 29 points.
Sherwood Park Crusaders 25-17-1 51 points 5th in the North
Last week: 4-2 win vs. Canucks (Jan 13th), 7-4 win vs. Mustangs (Jan 14th), 7-4 loss vs. Bonnyville (Jan 18th)
This weekend: Sunday vs. Grande Prairie
Sherwood Park will try and right the ship on Sunday against the Storm after they had their four game winning streak snapped on Wednesday. The Crusaders magic number to clinch a playoff spot is eight points, and although the Cru can't clinch a spot this weekend, they can move within two points if they win and Lloydminster losses both their games against Camrose. Head to head Sherwood Park has won both meetings against the Storm and have outscored them 13-7 in those two games.
Spruce Grove Saints 28-13-2 58 points 3rd in the North
Last week: 1-0 loss vs. Drumheller (Jan 13th), 3-1 win vs. Lloydminster (Jan 15th), 4-2 loss @ Whitecourt (Jan 17th)
This weekend: Friday @ Okotoks, Saturday @ Canmore
Spruce Grove will wind up a three game road trip with a pair of South games this weekend. Spruce Grove can become the third team to wrap up a playoff spot this weekend. All the Saints need is a win or Lloydminster, and they will be post season bound for the 13th straight year. Head to head this season the Saints have already beaten the Oilers once this season and have beaten the Eagles in both of their matchups. Spruce Grove is 7-4-2 against the South division this season.
Whitecourt Wolverines 30-10-4 64 points 1st in the North
Last week: 4-0 win @ Camrose (Jan 13th), 3-1 win @ Olds (Jan 14th), 4-2 win vs. Spruce Grove (Jan 17th)
This weekend: Friday vs. Drayton Valley
Even though it's only the third week of 2017, the Whitecourt Wolverines have already guaranteed that they will finish no lower than fifth. Whitecourt is only 11 wins away from clinching home ice advantage in the opening round. Their lone game this weekend against Drayton Valley will be the fifth time this season that the two teams have met. After dropping the first three games (all in OT or SO), the Wolverines hammered the Thunder 7-1 on December 20th in the last matchup of the season.
Story by Chris Colwell