Photo Credit – Chad Goddard:
With limited games left to play around the AJHL, the games are becoming more and more important for teams in the province of Alberta. Despite it being so late in the season, there is still a lot to be decided in both divisions.
Who will finish at the top of each division? Who?s going to secure the fourth spot in the North Divison? Can the Lloydminster Bobcats or Calgary Canucks creep into the post-season?
All those questions will be answered in the final six weeks of the season. For now, let?s take a look at what?s going on this weekend around the AJHL.
Bonnyville Pontiacs: 28-15-3 (3rd in the North Division)
Weekend Schedule: Friday @ Brooks Bandits, Saturday @ Drumheller Dragons
Bonnyville dropped their midweek game against the Whitecourt Wolverines on Wednesday night 6-3 on home ice. That loss made it three in a row for the Pontiacs who are now 3-6-1 in their last ten games. This weekend they?ll look to get back in the win column as they head south to face the Brooks Bandits and Drumheller Dragons. The Pontiacs beat the Bandits earlier this season in a thriller at the R.J. Lalonde Arena, however, they are yet to go up against the Drumheller Dragons.
Brooks Bandits: 38-5-1 (1st in the South Division)
Weekend Schedule: Friday vs Bonnyville Pontiacs, Saturday vs Sherwood Park Crusaders
The Bandits had a difficult time on the road last weekend falling to the Lloydminster Bobcats and the Sherwood Park Crusaders. They?ll be back on home ice this weekend where they haven?t lost in over 50 regular-season games. Their opponents will be the Bonnyville Pontiacs and then a rematch versus the Sherwood Park Crusaders.
Calgary Canucks: 6-38-2 (7th in the South Division)
Weekend Schedule: Saturday vs Canmore Eagles, Sunday vs Sherwood Park Crusaders
The Canucks have had it tough recently. With only one win in January, Calgary finds themselves on a four-game losing streak with their only win coming against the Lloydminster Bobcats in a shootout. This weekend, they?ll look to snap their losing skid. Calgary will host both the Canmore Eagles and Sherwood Park Crusaders on Saturday and Sunday. One of their six wins this season came against the Eagles earlier this season. Also, when they were on the road a few weeks ago, they pushed the Crusaders to their limits but fell 4-2.
Camrose Kodiaks: 22-19-3 (4th in the South Division)
Weekend Schedule: Friday @ Spruce Grove Saints, Saturday vs Spruce Grove Saints
Camrose goes up against the Spruce Grove Saints in their only two games against the North Division champions this season. The Kodiaks are heading into the weekend following a narrow loss to the Whitecourt Wolverines last Saturday. Ethan Green scored the winner for the Wolverines with five minutes to play at the Scott Safety Centre. You can read more about their game on Friday night at the Grant Fuhr Arena in the Saints portion of the preview below.
Canmore Eagles: 18-24-4 (5th in the South Division)
Weekend Schedule: Friday vs Okotoks Oilers, Saturday @ Calgary Canucks
After back-to-back wins over the Olds Grizzlys, the Eagles are heading into the weekend with plenty of momentum. They first host the Okotoks Oilers at Canmore Recreation Centre where they?ve won their last three games. Next up, the Eagles go on the road to challenge the Calgary Canucks on Saturday night. They last faced the Canucks just over a month ago where they won 5-2 after Brent Schuldhaus scored two goals.
Drayton Valley Thunder: 19-20-6 (5th in the North Division)
Weekend Schedule: Friday vs Lloydminster Bobcats, Sunday vs Lloydminster Bobcats
The Thunder are 7-2-1 in their last ten games with losses coming against the Sherwood Park Crusaders, Spruce Grove Saints and the Bonnyville Pontiacs. They?re getting in form at the perfect time as they head down the stretch and push for fourth in the North Division. They are currently four points behind the Whitecourt Wolverines in fourth. This weekend, they go up against the Lloydminster Bobcats who they?ve split their season series with so far. Both those games are at the Drayton Valley Omniplex on Friday and Sunday.
Drumheller Dragons: 27-15-3 (3rd in the South Division)
Weekend Schedule: Friday vs Sherwood Park Crusaders, Saturday vs Bonnyville Pontiacs
Drumheller has been in great form. They?ll be heading into the weekend riding a six-game win streak and have conceded only eight goals during the streak. If the Dragons want to continue that streak, they?ll have to take two points off the Sherwood Park Crusaders and the Bonnyville Pontiacs, which is who they face this weekend at the Drumheller Memorial Arena. Brady Risk, Eric Martin, Kobe Mohr, and Kiano Robinson will also look to continue their streaks as they each headed in the weekend on six or more game point streaks.
Fort McMurray Oil Barons: 15-29-3 (7th in the North Division)
Weekend Schedule: Friday @ Grande Prairie Storm, Saturday @ Grande Prairie Storm
Fort McMurray hits the road for the weekend as they head to the Revolution Arena to face the Grande Prairie Storm for a pair of games and then one against the Whitecourt Wolverines on Sunday. Gord Thibodeau was recently re-hired by the MOB replacing Bob Beattie. While he is yet to win a game since his return, the Oil Barons did come close to ending their seven-game losing streak on Tuesday, but fell short 3-2 in overtime to the Wolverines.
Grande Prairie Storm: 18-21-4 (6th in the North Division)
Weekend Schedule: Friday vs Fort McMurray Oil Barons, Saturday vs Fort McMurray Oil Barons
The Storm have been in action twice already this week. They were on the road on both Tuesday and Wednesday when they faced the Spruce Grove Saints and then the Lloydminster Bobcats. Things didn?t go to plan in Spruce Grove when they fell 4-1; however, they climbed back into the win column with a 3-2 win the next night in Lloydminster. The Storm are back at the Revolution Arena this weekend as they host the Fort McMurray Oil Barons. They?ve gone up against the MOB three times this season and have a 2-1-0 record against them. The last time they met on November 8th, the Storm came out on top with a 5-2 win on home ice.
Lloydminster Bobcats: 7-33-4 (8th in the North Division)
Weekend Schedule: Friday @ Drayton Valley Thunder, Saturday @ Whitecourt Wolverines, Sunday @ Drayton Valley Thunder
Lloydminster shocked the AJHL world last weekend. Tanner Mack buried a hat trick en route to a 4-3 win over the Brooks Bandits on home ice. However, since that historic win, the Bobcats have fallen twice with losses coming against the Okotoks Oilers and the Grande Prairie Storm. They?ll head out on the road this weekend for the two games versus the Drayton Valley Thunder and one against the Whitecourt Wolverines.
Okotoks Oilers: 36-6-3 (2nd in the South Division)
Weekend Schedule: Friday @ Canmore Eagles, Saturday @ Olds Grizzlys
The Okotoks Oilers are the hottest team in the AJHL right now. In their last ten games, the Oilers are 9-0-1 and have crept up to the Brooks Bandits who they now trail by only two points. They?ll look to narrow that gap even more with games coming up this weekend against Canmore and Olds. The Oilers have played well against both the Eagles and Grizzlys throughout the season. They?re yet to lose to the Eagles in their three meetings and have outscored them 18 to 7. However, they do have one loss versus the Grizzlys, which came in their last encounter against them when Tyler Pang scored the OT winner for Olds.
Olds Grizzlys: 9-31-5 (6th in the South Division)
Weekend Schedule: Saturday vs Okotoks Oilers
It?s a quiet weekend for the Olds Grizzlys. They only have one game on schedule which comes on Saturday night against the Okotoks Oilers. A win for the Grizzlys would end a four-game losing streak as they look to edge themselves a little further away from the Canucks in seventh.
Sherwood Park Crusaders: 38-6-0 (1st in the North Division)
Weekend Schedule: Friday @ Drumheller Dragons, Saturday @ Brooks Bandits, Sunday @ Calgary Canucks
Sherwood Park bounced back to form last weekend beating the Brooks Bandits 7-4 and then following that up with a 6-3 win over the Drayton Valley Thunder the next night. This weekend they?ve got three games coming up against South Division opponents, but they?ll have to do it without captain Arjun Atwal who was suspended two games for high sticking. First up, the Crusaders travel to face the Drumheller Dragons. Then, they go even further South for the rematch against the Bandits. Finally, they?ll close out their road trip with a stop in Calgary to face the Canucks.
Spruce Grove Saints: 34-11-2 (2nd in the North Division)
Weekend Schedule: Friday vs Camrose Kodiaks, Saturday @ Camrose Kodiaks
It will be a very special and emotional night at the Grant Fuhr Arena tonight as the Spruce Grove Saints honour Conner Lukan and Parker Tobin whose lives were sadly lost in the Humboldt Broncos bus accident in 2018. The Saints will be wearing a special Humboldt Broncos themed jersey honouring both former players and the other 14 lives that were lost in the tragedy. All proceeds of these jerseys will be donated to help support victim services. The Saints will be taking on the Camrose Kodiaks in that game, and then the next night, they?ll make the short trip South to face them again.
Whitecourt Wolverines: 22-15-6 (4th in the North Division)
Weekend Schedule: Saturday vs Lloydminster Bobcats, Sunday vs Fort McMurray Oil Barons
The Whitecourt Wolverines had a big win on Wednesday night beating the Bonnyville Pontiacs on the road 6-3. With the win, the Wolverines now have wins over the top three teams in the North Division – the Sherwood Park Crusaders, Spruce Grove Saints and Bonnyville Pontiacs – and now pull themselves within nine points of the Pontiacs in third with three games in hand. The Wolverines return to the Scott Safety Centre this weekend to face the Lloydminster Bobcats and Fort McMurray Oil Barons which will be Gord Thibodeau?s return to Whitecourt.