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With the majority of teams having played 20 games, we are a third of the way through the 2018/19 season. Right now, the Bonnyville Pontiacs and Brooks Bandits sit atop of their respective divisions with plenty of teams battling with them to be named kings of the North and South.
One of those teams not too far from the top is the current AJHL champions, the Spruce Grove Saints. The Saints are currently third in the North, two points behind the Sherwood Park Crusaders, and four behind the Pontiacs in first. Spruce Grove kickoff their weekend at home against the Olds Grizzlys, the team who sit bottom of the AJHL with five points. These two have faced off once already this season, so this will be their last regular season meeting against one another. Last time, a third period Parker Saretsky goal put the Saints over the edge beating Olds 4-3. On Saturday, the Saints will make a short trip around the Anthony Henday to Sherwood Park to take on the Crusaders. Unlike in years past, it has been a very competitive season series between the Saints and Crusaders with Sherwood Park taking the first game 4-3 in overtime, and the Saints responding the following night beating them 2-0. We should expect another fantastic game between these two suburban Edmonton towns.
As for Olds, they continue their northern road trip in the border city against the Lloydminster Bobcats. The Cats have been struggling as of late losing three straight scoring only three goals in the process. This game could help build momentum for both teams as they head into the next third of the season. Lloydminster also has a game against the Crusaders on Friday in Sherwood Park. The Cru have dominated Lloydminster in their previous two games beating them 4-2 and 8-3. Additionally, Sherwood Park will want to get back in the win column after uncharacteristically allowing eight goals in a loss to the Fort McMurray Oil Barons on Wednesday.
Speaking of the Oil Barons, they have a couple of home games coming up this weekend against the league-leading Brooks Bandits and an in-form Camrose Kodiaks team who are 7-2-1 in their last ten games. Fort McMurray has been in good form themselves in November taking points from each of their four games. The Oil Barons could have their hands full defensively with six players coming into the Casman Centre on a goal scoring streak of two games or more from both opponents. On Friday, the Bandits will be the opponent first coming into the Casman. They have won their last three games while conceding only 5 goals and scoring 23 themselves. After this one, it does not get much easier for the Bandits as they travel to Bonnyville to face the number one team in the North. The Pontiacs had a little slip up last weekend, losing 4-1 to the Drayton Valley Thunder, but since then they have won back-to-back games keeping a shutout in both. Also on Saturday, the Oil Barons wrap up their weekend against the Camrose Kodiaks. These two met just last weekend at the Encana Arena with the Kodikas coming away from that one with a 3-2 overtime win.
Staying in Northern Alberta, the Grande Prairie Storm are in action just once this weekend. That game comes on Friday night at the Revolution Arena against the Canmore Eagles. The Storm snapped a four-game losing streak last night with a 4-3 win over the Okotoks Oilers. The Eagles also have not been in the finest form, losing four in a row with their last victory coming against the Oil Barons on October 28th. Canmore will continue their North Division tour with visits to the Whitecourt Wolverines and the Drayton Valley Thunder on Saturday and Sunday. A strong weekend for them would throw them right back into the mix in the South. The Wolverines and Thunder will also play host to the Okotoks Oilers. First up, the Oilers will be in Whitecourt on Friday night. The two of them have been up and down throughout the season with them both wanting to get back to last season's standards. The next night, Okotoks is in Drayton Valley to take on the Thunder. Drayton Valley climbed from the bottom of the North Division earlier this week with a 4-0 win over the Grizzlys. They also bolstered their offence ahead of their weekend games with the addition of Drew Warkentine from the Bobcats on Thursday.
Another close rivalry takes place this weekend, but this time in Calgary. The Mustangs make the very short trip from the Father David Bauer to the Ken Bracko Arena to face the Canucks. A win for the Canucks would end a 12-game losing streak while the Mustangs will be in search of their fourth straight victory. The next night, the Canucks stay at home for a game versus the Drumheller Dragons. The Dragons have had a strong season so far but did lose to the Mustangs last night 3-1. Also, a quick congratulations to Jordan Taupert who became the all-time leader in points for the Dragons.
Be sure to get out and support your local AJHL team this weekend!
By Liam Horrobin