AJHL Weekend Preview: November 2nd – 4th

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The AJHL season is nearly a third of the way through and another weekend could see some major positional juggling at the top and bottom of both divisions.  While the slate of games may be light, the implications of their results are heavy.

Tonight, the weekend begins with a several great rivalry matchups- including the Canmore Eagles (9-4-3) visiting the Brooks Bandits (15-2-0) at the Centennial Regional Arena.  The Bandits lead the league in scoring, averaging nearly 5.5 goals per game, while the Eagles are no slouches offensively either at 4.38 goals per game- good for second in the league.  The Bandits will stay at home on Saturday as they welcome the Calgary Canucks (2-15-1) who are looking to snap a nasty 10-game losing streak heading into this weekend and find a way to get some pucks in the net.  Currently, the Canucks average an even two goals per game which is last in the AJHL.  Meanwhile, the Eagles will look to take flight in Okotoks against the Oilers (9-7-1) on Saturday to close out their weekend road swing against divisional opponents. 

Before they take on the Bandits Saturday, the Canucks have a big game on Friday as they look to remain ahead of the Olds Grizzlys (1-16-1) in the South Division.  The Grizzlys picked up their first win of the season last weekend and are looking for two wins in their last three games to start off the weekend.  The Grizzlys will follow up with a game against Calgary’s other team, the Mustangs (6-7-3) on Saturday.  The Mustangs are also reeling, as they haven’t picked up a win since the AJHL Showcase and are on a nine game slide in which they’ve picked up just three points.  The Mustangs are in Okotoks tonight.

In the North, the Spruce Grove Saints (14-4-0) are going for their 5th win a row tonight when they face the Grande Prairie Storm (10-7-2), losers in their last three contests.  The Storm, usually very strong on home ice, sit at 5-5 on the season and the matchup against Spruce Grove is their only game of the weekend.  The teams have split their prior two meetings, combining for 15 goals.  From Grande Prairie, the Saints park their bus in Whitecourt to face the Wolverines (9-9-0) for the second time this season.  Like Grande Prairie, the Wolverines are also struggling at home so far this season with a 4-6 record.  The Sherwood Park Crusaders (13-3-2) are tied with the Saints for second place in the AJHL North and play in Whitecourt tonight before having the rest of the weekend off.

This weekend’s interdivisional games will see the Fort McMurray Oil Barons (7-6-3) and the Lloydminster Bobcats (5-10-1) have the same road trip through the South Division as they will each play the Camrose Kodiaks (8-8-2) and Drumheller Dragons (13-5-0).  Tonight, the MOB are in Drumheller and are looking to beat the Dragons for the second time this season, as they took the first meeting by a score of 6-3 at the AJHL Showcase.  The Dragons are coming off a sensational October, as they went 9-2-0 and have won three of their last four games.  The Oil Barons are hoping they’ll be able to  repeat their Showcase performance against Drumheller in order to snap a three game slide.  Fort McMurray has just one win in their last seven.  On Saturday, the Oil Barons will face the Kodiaks in Camrose.  Like Drumheller, the Kodiaks rounded out October in fine form with five wins in their last six games (with the only loss coming in a shootout to the Dragons) and are looking for their third win in a row. 

The Lloydminster Bobcats will start their version of the road trip on Saturday in Drumheller before heading into Camrose on Sunday.  The Bobcats are two points ahead of the last place Drayton Valley Thunder (4-13-1) and have two games in hand, but are just 3-6-1 in their last ten games.  The Bobcats / Kodiaks matinee is the only Sunday game on this weekend’s AJHL schedule.

Back up North, the Drayton Valley Thunder have their work cut out for them as they look to keep pace with the Bobcats when they host the North-leading Bonnyville Pontiacs (15-4-0) twice this weekend.  The Pontiacs haven’t had much disappointment at the final buzzer this season, but they were beat twice by Okotoks in a seven-day stretch to close out October, including their most recent game last Saturday.  Meanwhile, the Thunder are coming off a 2-1 victory over the Calgary Mustangs and are 3-3-1 in their last seven after a nine-game losing streak.  Bonnyville and Drayton Valley have met one previous time this season, as the Pontiacs built a 4-0 1st period lead at home and skated to a 4-2 win on October 7th.