While the weekend action in the Alberta Junior Hockey League kicks off on Friday, Saturday night is definitely the marquee night for hockey.
The top team in each division is on home ice and will welcome in the team trying to chase them down. It's a battle of No. 1 versus No. 2, and depending on how Friday's games go, there could be some swapping of division leaders.
In the South Division, the Camrose Kodiaks are just one point behind the Brooks Bandits, but are currently riding a two game losing streak. If they can snap that funk on Friday against the Calgary Canucks, and Brooks defeats the Calgary Mustangs, Saturday could be a chance for the Kodiaks to get back into the division lead.
After starting the month scoring 20 goals in three games, the Kodiaks have been limited to just one goal in their last two. Brooks, on the other hand, is riding a four game winning streak into the weekend and tallied 25 goals in that span. The last team to defeat the Bandits, however, was Camrose at the start of the month in a close 5-4 game. Brooks won in a shootout a week prior, making Saturday's game the third time since Oct. 30 that the top two in the South Division will meet.
In the North Division, the Spruce Grove Saints could put a four point gap between themselves and the Lloydminster Bobcats with a victory over Bonnyville on Friday, ensuring that they can't be leaped in the standings should Lloydminster win the third meeting of the year between the two highest ranked AJHL teams in the Canadian Junior Hockey League standings.
The Saints were No. 6 in Canada, while the Bobcats came in behind at No. 7, so the winner on Saturday should be in front when Monday's rankings come out. The Saints have a five game winning steak and have won 14 of their last 15 since last playing the Bobcats. Lloydminster turned a two game losing skid into a two game winning one, and only have the Saints to prepare for this weekend after getting Friday night off.
So while the first and second place teams are spending time with each other, it leaves those in third with a chance to make up some ground of their own.
The Whitecourt Wolverines head to Fort McMurray for two games. Three overtime victories this month have helped keep Whitecourt in third spot in the North Division, while their only loss in November came by way of the Okotoks Oilers from the South Division. The Wolverines haven't been looked at as heavily as the top two in the division who are nationally ranked, but like Lloydminster and Spruce Grove, Whitecourt has only lost four games in regulation, while three other games slipped in extra time. They are five points back of the Bobcats against a Oil Barons team that is back on a losing skid again.
In the South, Canmore is the longest active winning streak in the league at six games and is nestled right behind Camrose in the division, just one point back. While eyes will be on what the Bandits and Kodiaks are doing to each other, a glance will have to be made to the scoreboard to see what the Eagles are doing against Drayton Valley on Friday and Sherwood Park on Saturday, as the Eagles could get themselves into top spot this weekend, or at least into second place. The Eagles have piled on the goals as of late, scoring 30 goals in their last five, including back to back eight-goal games.
And looking one place down, the AJHL's fourth place teams will meet on Friday, as Sherwood Park heads to Okotoks. Unfortunately for the Crusaders, they play in the North Division, as their 36 points would make them the top team in the South. Despite both teams being in fourth place, Sherwood Park has nine points more than the Oilers.
by Andrew Brethauer