AJHL Weekend Preview: January 3rd-5th

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A New Year always holds the same promise as ice recently visited by a Zamboni – before the 15 AJHL teams is an opportunity to close out on goals set at the beginning of the year, refocus for a strong finish, and leave everything on the ice.  The New Year marks the final third of the AJHL season, and it?s going to be a flurry to the finish with playoff positioning juggling after every final box score.  The top two ranked Junior A teams in the country have strong holds on both AJHL divisions, but there?s still plenty left to be decided. 

Bonnyville Pontiacs

26-10-2, 3rd AJHL North

Weekend Schedule: Friday @ Thunder; Saturday @ Thunder

The Bonnyville Pontiacs have put some distance between themselves and the Whitecourt Wolverines after an excellent December, going 7-2 over the month, winning six of their last seven and splitting a pair of meetings with the powerhouse Crusaders.  This weekend, Bonnyville will look to bolster an already solid home record of 13-5 when they take on the Drayton Valley Thunder twice.  The ?Yaks have taken two of three contests against the Thunder this season. 

Brooks Bandits

36-1-1, 1st AJHL South

Weekend Schedule: Friday @ Oilers; Saturday @ Kodiaks

The Brooks Bandits enter 2020 with some familiarity? they?re on a lengthy win streak and the top ranked team in all of Junior A hockey.  Victors of their last 12 games, the Bandits will certainly battle to try and extend their run to 13 against the Oilers in Okotoks on Friday.  In two previous meetings, the Bandits have picked up wins with one coming in a shootout.  The Bandits will stay on the road on Saturday when they visit the Camrose Kodiaks.  Brooks has dominated Camrose so far this season, outscoring them 24-12 in four victories. 

Calgary Canucks

5-33-1, 7th AJHL South

Weekend Schedule: Friday @ Saints; Saturday @ Crusaders

The Calgary Canucks will continue a road trip this weekend and are coming off a disappointing 7-0 loss in Fort McMurray to the Oil Barons last night. Calgary will try to end a seven-game slide in the Edmonton Capital Region, taking on the Spruce Grove Saints on Friday and then the Sherwood Park Crusaders on Saturday.

Camrose Kodiaks

18-16-3, 4th AJHL South

Weekend Schedule: Friday @ Bobcats; Saturday vs Bandits

The Camrose Kodiaks start the New Year on a three game win streak, their second such streak in the last eight games, and looking to close in on the Drumheller Dragons for 3rd in the AJHL South.  The Kodiaks haven?t allowed a goal since December 20th, as Cole Tisdale and Griffin Bowerman shut out the Canucks and Dragons respectively.  The Kodiaks will look to keep opponents scoreless as they take on the Lloydminster Bobcats on Friday night before returning home to host the Bandits for the 5th clash of the year between the division rivals. 

Canmore Eagles

13-21-4, 5th AJHL South

Weekend Schedule: Friday @ Oil Barons; Saturday @ Saints; Sunday @ Crusaders

The Canmore Eagles start 2020 by taking flight for a three game road trip across the North division.  After ending 2019 with back-to-back 8-2 defeats against the Brooks Bandits, contributing to a three game dip, the Eagles will look to level off in Fort McMurray against the Oil Barons.  The Eagles will end their trip in daunting fashion, visiting the top two teams in the North in the Spruce Grove Saints and division-leading Sherwood Park Crusaders.  It will be the first meeting with the MOB, but the Eagles held their own against the Saints and Crusaders already this year in narrow defeats. 

Drayton Valley Thunder

12-18-5, T-5th AJHL North

Weekend Schedule: Friday vs Pontiacs; Saturday vs Pontiacs

The Drayton Valley Thunder rolled through the end of 2019, picking up a pair of wins on the road against Fort McMurray after dropping the Spruce Grove Saints 5-2 in DV.  The Thunder will return home to the Omniplex this weekend for some measuring stick games against the Bonnyville Pontiacs for a pair.  The teams last met in Bonnyville on December 13th, a 5-1 Pontiacs win, so the Thunder will look to even the score. 

Drumheller Dragons

20-14-3, 3rd AJHL South

Weekend Schedule: Friday @ Storm; Saturday @ Wolverines

A 4-5 December saw the Drumheller Dragons’ hold on third in the South whittled to four points, with the Camrose Kodiaks shutting them out on New Year?s Eve to claw within striking distance.  The Dragons will look to the road to start 2020 in the win column, as they travel to the Peace Region to take on the Grande Prairie Storm before making a pit stop in Whitecourt on the trek home.  The Dragons are 1-0 against both northern foes this season, including a 9-2 victory against the Storm earlier this season. 

Fort McMurray Oil Barons

15-23-2, 7th AJHL North

Weekend Schedule: Friday vs Eagles

The Oil Barons had a disappointing end to 2019, losing their last three games (including two at home to the Thunder) but got back on track right away in 2020 with a 7-0 shutout of the Canucks on Thursday night.  Jesse Burchart and Ethan Jones each had three point outings while Evan Fradette made 22 saves for this third shutout of the year and third in his last seven starts.  This weekend, the MOB host the Canmore Eagles on Friday night. 

Grande Prairie Storm

15-17-3, T-5th AJHL North

Weekend Schedule: Friday vs Dragons; Saturday vs Grizzlys

The Grande Prairie Storm had a light and productive December, earning four victories in just six games with the only losses coming to the Brooks Bandits.  The Storm haven?t taken the ice since before Christmas, when they picked up back-to-back 5-1 wins on the road against the Olds Grizzlys and Calgary Canucks.  The Storm aren?t quite done with the South yet, as they host a pair of interdivisional tilts this weekend against the Dragons and the Grizzlys for a rematch.  The Storm have won four of their last five at Revolution Arena. 

Lloydminster Bobcats

6-28-3, 8th AJHL North

Weekend Schedule: Friday vs Kodiaks

The Lloydminster Bobcats had a trying December, going 2-7.  With some time to regroup, the Bobcats will certainly be prepared for the Camrose Kodiaks on Friday.  Earlier this season, the Kodiaks just worked past the Bobcats in a 3-2 game.  Chance Adrian currently has the hot stick for Lloydminster, with points in three straight games and 10 points in his last eight. 

Okotoks Oilers

28-6-3, 2nd AJHL South

Weekend Schedule: Friday vs Bandits

The Okotoks Oilers are coming off three straight games against the Olds Grizzlys and after wining the first two decisively (and 15 days apart), the Oilers surrendered a 3-1 lead on New Year?s Day in a 4-3 overtime loss.  The Oilers will have the work cut out for them getting back into the win column, as the top-ranked Bandits come to town on Friday for their lone game of the weekend.  The Oilers / Bandits rivalry is among the best in the AJHL and there?s going to be plenty of meetings as the season winds down with only two meetings ? both won by Brooks ? played so far this season.  The Friday tilt will also feature some of the hottest goal scorers in the AJHL, with Oiler Marc Pasemko lighting the lamp in four straight while Bandits Randy Hernandez and Brayden Krieger have scored in four and five straight games, respectively. 

Olds Grizzlys

8-24-5, 6th AJHL South

Weekend Schedule: Friday @ Wolverines; Saturday @ Storm

The Olds Grizzlys ended a 10-game losing streak on New Year?s Day with a 4-3 OT win over the Okotoks Oilers, their first victory since November 29th.  While a win over the Oilers was impressive enough, the Grizzlys also overcame a 3-1 deficit in the 3rd period to get the much needed points.  The Grizzlys will look to turn the win into a streak this weekend, swinging up north for games against the Whitecourt Wolverines and Grande Prairie Storm. 

Sherwood Park Crusaders

33-3-0, 1st AJHL North

Weekend Schedule: Saturday vs Canucks; Sunday vs Eagles

Second to only the Brooks Bandits in the AJHL, the CJHL power rankings, and in win streak length, the Sherwood Park Crusaders will look for their 9th win in a row ? and maybe more ? during a two game homestand this weekend.  The Crusaders, 9-1 against the South division this year, will welcome the Calgary Canucks and Canmore Eagles.  Crusaders William Zapernick (10 games), Carter Savoie (7 games), Jacob Kendall (6 games) and Michael Benning (5 games) all have the opportunity to extend already noteworthy point streaks. 

Spruce Grove Saints

27-10-2, 2nd AJHL North

Weekend Schedule: Friday vs Canucks; Saturday vs Eagles

The Spruce Grove Saints ended the year with a rocky stretch losing four of five and finding themselves outscored 24-13 with 2019 ending in a 6-1 setback at home to the cross-town rival Crusaders.  The Saints will be eager to end the uncharacteristic run this weekend with a pair of home games against the Calgary Canucks and Canmore Eagles.  The Saints have already upended the Canucks twice this season, while they grinded out a lunch bucket 4-3 victory over the Eagles in Canmore back in November. 

Whitecourt Wolverines

16-15-4, 4th AJHL North

Weekend Schedule: Friday vs Grizzlys; Saturday vs Dragons

The Whitecourt Wolverines start 2020 very fresh, not having played since a 3-1 victory over the Spruce Grove Saints on December 21st.  The win was a positive way to end a 2-4-1 month and the Wolverines will try to use the positivity and the break to springboard into a win streak with a pair of home games this weekend.  The Olds Grizzlys come to Whitecourt for the first meeting of the year between the two, while the Wolverines will face the Dragons for the first time since November 28th, when Drumheller used their home ice advantage to skate to pull away from a see-saw game at 2-2 for a 5-3 win.