AJHL Weekend Preview: January 31st – February 2nd

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The 2019-2020 AJHL Season has entered the home stretch, with most teams hovering around the 50 games played mark.  Despite the season nearing its end, there?s still plenty to be decided whether it?s playoff positioning or, in the case of a Friday night matchup, first place in a division.  Here?s how every team?s shift into February looks this weekend. 

Bonnyville Pontiacs
3rd AJHL North
Weekend Schedule: Friday vs Grizzlys; Saturday vs Dragons

The Bonnyville Pontiacs have had a rocky start to 2020 as January draws to a close.  They still have a hold on third place in a competitive AJHL North, but have gone 2-7-1 since the calendar flip and are currently winless in five straight games after upending the division-leading Crusaders.  The Pontiacs have a pair of home games this weekend and will work to pick up two points against the Olds Grizzlys on Friday and the Drumheller Dragons on Saturday.  The ?Yaks were burned by the Dragons last Saturday, 5-2.

Brooks Bandits
T-1st AJHL South
Weekend Schedule: Friday @ Oilers; Saturday vs Eagles

The Brooks Bandits find their lead on first place in the AJHL South now gone and will begin the weekend with a showdown for top spot against the Okotoks Oilers.  With both teams knotted at 81 points, Brooks does have the slight advantage with a game in hand.  However, the Oilers have grinded towards the Bandits all month with two big wins against their biggest rival including a 6-2 thumping in Brooks on Wednesday. The loss was the first time the Bandits have lost in regulation at home since February 24th, 2018 ? a stretch of 53 wins over nearly two calendar years.

Calgary Canucks
7th AJHL South
Weekend Schedule: Friday @ Kodiaks; Sunday @ Oilers

The Calgary Canucks roll into the weekend coming off a big win that ended a six-game skid, taking a 4-3 contest against the Olds Grizzlys on Tuesday.  With the game tied 3-3 in the final minute of the third period, Matthew Brunton would bury his 9th goal of the season with just 44 seconds remaining to secure the Calgary win.  The Canucks will try to string the heroics into a win streak this weekend, as they hit the road to take on the Camrose Kodiaks and the Okotoks Oilers.  Every game is a playoff game for the Canucks, as they trail the Grizzlys by 7 points for the final playoff spot in the South.

Camrose Kodiaks
4th AJHL South
Weekend Schedule: Friday vs Canucks; Saturday vs Thunder

With just one win in their last four games, the Camrose Kodiaks will try to get their offence fired up in a pair of home games this weekend against the Calgary Canucks and Drayton Valley Thunder.  After starting the month with a series of games with prolific scoring, the Kodiaks have slightly cooled off offensively.  The Kodiaks could heat back up again on Friday against Calgary, as they are 5-0 against the Canucks this season and average over five goals a game against them.  Despite the recent dip in production, leading scorer Cody Laskosky is still humming along with points in three straight and 18 points in his last 11 outings.

Canmore Eagles
5th AJHL South
Weekend Schedule: Saturday @ Bandits

The Canmore Eagles will have had a full week between games when they finally return to the ice on Saturday to face the Bandits in Brooks.  The Eagles have filled the opposition net while winning three of their last four, racking up 24 goals during that stretch.  With a dozen games remaining in their season, the Eagles trail the Kodiaks for 4th in the South by just seven points.  The Saturday clash in Brooks marks the only game of the weekend for Canmore, and the two teams will meet in the Rocky Mountains on Tuesday for a rematch.

Drayton Valley Thunder
5th AJHL North
Weekend Schedule: Friday vs Saints; Saturday @ Kodiaks

The Drayton Valley Thunder have oared through the month of January, climbing over the .500 mark with a 7-2-1 run, including three straight victories coming in extra time.  This weekend, fans at the Omniplex will wonder if they?ll only need to use the edge of their seats again as the Thunder host the Spruce Grove Saints for the second time this month.  In the first meeting, the Saints edged the Thunder 2-1 in the shootout.  The Thunder are coming off a weekend sweep of the Lloydminster Bobcats, winning 4-2 and 4-0 with rookie Jackson Berry picking up his first career AJHL shutout with 24 saves in the latter game.

Drumheller Dragons
3rd AJHL South
Weekend Schedule: Friday @ Oil Barons; Saturday @ Pontiacs

The Drumheller Dragons have had a terrific month, practically keeping pace with the Okotoks Oilers with a 9-2 showing.  The Dragons have scored seemingly at will, tallying at least 5 goals in all of their wins but one ? a 4-3 victory in Grande Prairie back on January 3rd.  Forward Brady Risk is on quite the tear, with 5 goals in his last four games, and each marker further pads his lead as the franchise?s all-time leading goal scorer.  This weekend, the Dragons trek up north to face the Fort McMurray Oil Barons and Bonnyville Pontiacs.

Fort McMurray Oil Barons
7th AJHL North
Weekend Schedule: Friday vs Dragons; Saturday vs Grizzlys

After returning to the organization he lead to five AJHL Finals and a League Championship, Gord Thibodeau has picked up his first wins of this stint with the Oil Barons, both coming in the shootout against the Grande Prairie Storm last weekend.  The victories were followed by 5-1 setback in Whitecourt on Sunday, but the Oil Barons will hope the friendly confines of the Casman Centre can give them a boost against the Drumheller Dragons and the Olds Grizzlys.

Grande Prairie Storm
6th AJHL North
Weekend Schedule: Friday vs Crusaders; Saturday vs Crusaders

The Grande Prairie Storm have dropped three straight, though two defeats did come in narrow shootout decisions  to the MOB last weekend.  At 3-6-2 in in the month, things don?t get much easier for the Storm as they host the division leading Crusaders for a pair of back-to-back games this weekend.  The Storm have played the Crusaders tight all season, going 1-2 against the Sherwood Park powerhouse, with the win coming earlier this month when the Storm came back from a 2-0 deficit to topple the Crusaders 3-2.

Lloydminster Bobcats
8th AJHL North
Weekend Schedule: Friday vs Wolverines; Saturday vs Wolverines

The Lloydminster Bobcats are looking to end the season strong.  After a morale boosting victory over the stacked Brooks Bandits earlier this month, the Bobcats have yet to return to the win column and are on a five-game losing streak.  They will meet a familiar foe this weekend, as they?ll host the Wolverines in a weekend back-to-back after meeting just last Saturday, a 4-1 victory in favour of Whitecourt.

Okotoks Oilers
T-1st AJHL South
Weekend Schedule: Friday vs Bandits; Sunday vs Canucks

With a win at home against the Brooks Bandits on Friday night, the Okotoks Oilers will be able to pull ahead of their rival into 1st place in the AJHL South, which is a testament to the terrific run the Oilers have found themselves on.  Okotoks has won 11 in a row, with the most recent six wins all coming on the road.  They?ve outscored the opposition 58-24 during their win streak while Jack Works has goals in seven straight contests and Marc Pasemko has collected points in seven straight.  After the showdown with Brooks on Friday, the Oilers host the Calgary Canucks on Sunday.

Olds Grizzlys
6th AJHL South
Weekend Schedule: Friday @ Pontiacs; Saturday @ Oil Barons

The Olds Grizzlys enter the weekend seven points up on the Calgary Canucks with a baker?s dozen of games left on their docket.  Coming off a loss to those very Canucks on Tuesday (4-3 in Calgary), the Grizzlys definitely know how important the remaining schedule is for their bid to return to the post-season. They?ll look to shake off a six-game losing streak on the road, visiting the Bonnyville Pontiacs and the Fort McMurray Oil Barons on Friday and Saturday.

Sherwood Park Crusaders
1st AJHL North
Weekend Schedule: Friday @ Storm; Saturday @ Storm

The Sherwood Park Crusaders have two games in hand and a 8-point advantage over the Spruce Grove Saints for 1st place in the AJHL North and a strong upcoming weekend on the road would go a long way towards locking up the top seed.  The Crusaders will find themselves in Grande Prairie for a pair of games against the Storm, and they?ll be looking to avenge a 3-2 loss to Grande Prairie on January 12th.  Arjun Atwal?s high-flying season continues ? he currently shares the hottest point streak in the league with Drumheller?s Eric Martin with an 11-game run that?s seen him record 20 points.  Atwal is also a mere 14 points shy of cracking 100 on the year.

Spruce Grove Saints
2nd AJHL North
Weekend Schedule: Friday @ Thunder

The Spruce Grove Saints have only a single game to concern themselves with this weekend, as they pay a visit to the Drayton Valley Thunder.  The Saints had a five game win streak snapped in Camrose last Saturday, while their last visit to Drayton Valley was a 5-2 setback on December 17th.  Forward Tanner Klassen has points in four straight, all assists, while the Saints have had a good January overall going 8-2.

Whitecourt Wolverines
4th AJHL North
Weekend Schedule: Friday @ Bobcats; Saturday @ Bobcats

For the second weekend in a row, the Whitecourt Wolverines will find themselves taking on the Lloydminster Bobcats. Last weekend, Whitecourt would skate to a 4-1 victory over the Bobcats and have followed up the effort with two more wins to build a six game winning streak that has them three points shy of the Bonnyville Pontiacs for third in the North.  While the Wolverines have won two of the three previous meetings against the Bobcats this season, the games have been low scoring with the teams combining for 10 goals ? with half of them scored a week ago.