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The AJHL season is getting closer to the halfway mark as we enter the last weekend of games in November. There are 15 games on the schedule from Friday through to Sunday evening with eight of which being non-divisional contests.
The action gets underway on Friday night with a clash against two North Division heavyweights when the Bonnyville Pontiacs travel to Sherwood Park to face the Crusaders. With the two of them tied at the top of the division with 40 points, the winner of this contest will climb above the other and will stand alone at the top of the North. The competition does not get any easier for the Crusaders with the Brooks Bandits in town the next night. The two of them are ranked in the Top 5 of the CJHL rankings with Brooks at #1 and Sherwood Park at #5. This will be the first meeting between the two top teams in the AJHL.
Before travelling to Sherwood Park, Brooks heads to the border city on Friday night to faceoff against the Lloydminster Bobcats. Lloydminster is heading into this one off a victory over the Whitecourt Wolverines last Saturday which was Nigel Dube’s first win as general manager and head coach of the Bobcats. This game is also the Bobcats superhero jersey night! Perhaps the power from their superhero uniforms could help them get an upset win over the number one team in the country. Following this contest, Lloydminster travels to Bonnyville for their third matchup versus the Pontiacs this season. They will be hoping to turn things around against Bonnyville after losing in both prior contests.
Another top matchup happens up north with the third and fourth placed teams in the North Division colliding. The Spruce Grove Saints make the long trip to Fort McMurray for their first taste of the Casman Centre this season. Spruce Grove has been struggling lately winning once in their last four games. Luckily for them, that one victory came last weekend against the Drumheller Dragons so momentum could be carried over from that contest. As for the Oil Barons they too have not been in typical Fort McMurray form. They have lost their last two games both against the Grande Prairie Storm and were taken to a shootout in their two matchups beforehand. However, the Barons did come away with four points from those two games. The last time the Saints and Barons met Spruce Grove came out 3-2 winners at the Grant Fuhr Arena with Alex Dalton getting the game-winner with seven minutes to play.
The final two North Division franchises – the Grande Prairie Storm and Whitecourt Wolverines – are both travelling around the southern part of the province. The two of them are up against the Okotoks Oilers and Canmore Eagles. First up, the Storm take on the Eagles on Friday night at the Canmore Recreation Centre, where Canmore has won four of their last six home games. The following night it will be the Wolverines looking to knock off the Eagles at home. Canmore has faced the two northerns already this year getting two points on both occasions. Their games in Okotoks will be in reverse with Whitecourt at the Parson Centennial Arena on Friday, and then the Storm the next night. Much like the Eagles, Okotoks has been strong at home where they lost once in their last eight. Grande Prairie wraps up their third game weekend road trip in Drumheller on Sunday against the Dragons who are looking to gain ground on the Bandits in first. As for the Wolverines, they finish off their weekend in Calgary against the Mustangs; a team they beat 6-1 at the Scott Safety Centre earlier this year.
It should be noted that the Drayton Valley Thunder are not in action this weekend; they return to the ice on Tuesday versus the Grande Prairie Storm.
Drumheller has another game on the calendar this weekend. They are at the Olds Sportsplex on Friday night versus the Olds Grizzlys. The Dragons have been fantastic on the road this season with a 9-3-0 record; meanwhile, the Grizzlys have only one win at home in thirteen attempts. However, the Grizzlys do travel to an arena they have had success in this season when they go to the Ken Bracko Arena on Saturday to face the Canucks. A win for Calgary could lift them from the floor of the South Division. Finally, before their Saturday night game against the Grizzlys, Calgary welcome the Camrose Kodiaks to the home of the Canucks. The Kodiaks have had a tough week losing two games to the Pontiacs 6-1 on Tuesday, and then 5-3 to the Mustangs on Thursday. Before those back-to-back losses, they had been on fire with four wins in their last five, and they are only loss being in a shootout.