AJHL Weekend Preview – Sept 23-25

The 2016/17 AJHL season is well underway as 15 teams will take part in 15 games this weekend.

Bonnyville Pontiacs (3-1-0 6 pts) 1st in the North
Last week: 6-1 win vs. Lloydminster (Sept 16th), 4-3 win at Lloydminster (Sept 17th), 5-2 win vs. Fort McMurray (Sept 20th), 5-4 loss vs. Spruce Grove (Sept 21st)
This weekend: no games.
PJ Marrocco leads the team with six goals and seven points in the first four games. Bonnyville has spread the scoring out in their first four games with 17 of 19 players in their roster garnering points. Josh Williams, Sandro Silvestre and Matteo Esposito have all played between the pipes for the Pontiacs, and all three goalies have one win which could make it tough for Head Coach and General Manager Rick Swan to make a decision on which two goalies he will have moving forward.

Drayton Valley Thunder (2-0-0 4 pts) tied for 2nd in the North
Last week: 4-3 OT win vs. Whitecourt (Sept 16th), 6-5 SO win at Whitecourt (Sept 17th)
Grande Prairie Storm (0-2-0  0 pts) tied for 7th in the North
Last week:  4-0 loss at Fort McMurray (Sept 16th), 8-0 loss at Fort McMurray (Sept 17th)
Scheduled games this weekend: Friday at Grande Prairie, Saturday at Grande Prairie.
Michael Cardinal led the team with two goals and five points in the two games against Whitecourt last weekend. Drayton Valley is riding high despite needing extra time to win both games against the Wolverines last weekend. Joseph McLeod played both games between the pipes for the Thunder and early on appears to the favorite to take over the starters role. Turning to the Storm offense was hard to come by in their first two games last weekend in Fort McMurray. Eric Jackson got the start for both games last weekend against the Oil Barons. The Storm will be hoping that some home cooking will be able to turn them around.

Fort McMurray Oil Barons (2-1-0 4 pts) tied for 2nd in the North
Last week: 4-0 win vs. Grande Prairie (Sept 16th), 8-0 win vs. Grande Prairie (Sept 17th), 5-2 loss at Bonnyville (Sept 20th)
Scheduled games this weekend: Friday vs. Canmore, Saturday vs. Lloydminster.
Taner Miller (2 goals, 3 assists 5 pts), Jordan Steenbergen (0 goals, 4 assists 4 pts), Will Conley (1 goal, 3 assists 4 pts) led the Fort McMurray Oil Barons to an great start to the season with back to back shutout victories in their first two games.  Eric Szudor and Forbes Ploszaj combined for a shutout in the first game of the season before Szudor would get a full game shutout last Saturday. Unfortunately, for Fort McMurray, their first road game didn't go so well as they fell 5-2 to Bonnyville. The Oil Barons return home for two games this weekend looking to keep their perfect record on home ice intact.

Lloydminster Bobcats (0-3-0 0 pts) tied for 7th in the North
Last week: 6-3 loss at Bonnyville (Sept 16th), 4-1 loss vs. Bonnyville (Sept 17th), 6-1 loss vs. Sherwood Park (Sept 21st)
Scheduled games this weekend: Friday vs. Spruce Grove, Saturday at Fort McMurray
The defending RBC Cup runners-up are still looking for their first win of the 2016/17 season. Zach Webb has led the team offensively with three goals. Austin McGrath and Jeremy Kelleway have split the time between the pipes with Kelleway having slightly better numbers. Things don't get any easier for the Bobcats this weekend as they take on a pair of 2-1 teams.  The defending runners-up have 17 rookies on their roster and only three 20 year olds which open the door to some possible moves in the future if things don't turn around for the team.

Sherwood Park Crusaders (2-1-0 4 pts) tied for 2nd in the North
Last week: 6-0 loss vs. Spruce Grove (Sept 16th), 5-3 win at Spruce Grove (Sept 17th), 6-1 win at Lloydminster (Sept 21st)
Scheduled games this weekend: Saturday at Olds, Sunday vs. Canmore
Riding a two game winning streak coming into the weekend the Crusaders hope to keep the good times rolling. Arjun Atwal (3 goals & 1 assist), Matthew Dykstra (1 goal & 3 assists) and Merritt Oszytko (3 goals & 1 assist) lead the team with four points. Zac Klassen has played all three games in goal for the Crusaders so far this season. The Crusaders will get their first look at the South Division when they host Olds and Canmore as they look for their first home win of the season.

Spruce Grove Saints (2-1-0 4 pts) tied for 2nd in the North
Last week: 6-0 win at Sherwood Park (Sept 16th), 5-3 loss vs. Sherwood Park (Sept 17th), 5-4 win at Bonnyville (Sept 21st)
Scheduled games this weekend: Friday at Lloydminster, Saturday vs. Canmore
It has been an interesting start to the season for the Saints, they are a perfect 2-0 on the road while they dropped their home opener.  Tanner Hickey leads Spruce Grove with one goal and four points. The Saints have spread the scoring out in the first three games with 15 of the 21 roster players getting points. Nolan Kent has appeared in two of the three games for the Saints posting a 1-1 record while Michael Barbash is 1-0 in his lone start for Spruce Grove. The Saints will look to keep their perfect road record intact while they also have a chance at their first home win of the season this weekend as well.

Whitecourt Wolverines (1-0-2 4 pts) tied for 2nd in the North
Last week: 4-3 OT loss at Drayton Valley (Sept 16th), 6-5 SO loss vs. Drayton Valley (Sept 17th), 4-2 win at Calgary Canucks (Sept 21st)
Scheduled games this weekend: Friday at Brooks, Saturday at Drumheller
Bryson Traptow (3 goals & 4 assists, 7 pts) and the Whitecourt Wolverines have yet to lose in regulation time. The pre season favorites to win the North started out with a pair of extra time losses before rebounding on Wednesday with their first win of the season.  Whitecourt is continuing their first South Division road trip this weekend and will look to continue their winning ways. Both Pierce Diamond (1-0-1) and Aaron Mackay (0-0-1) have had a chance between the pipes with both goalies posting similar numbers. So far 16 of 21 players on the roster have points for the Wolverines in three games this season.

Brooks Bandits (2-1-0 4 pts) tied for 2nd in the South
Last week: 2-1 loss vs. Okotoks (Sept 16th), 8-1 win vs. Calgary Mustangs (Sept 17th), 7-2 win at Olds (Sept 20th)
Scheduled games this weekend: Friday vs. Whitecourt, Saturday at Okotoks
Oliver Chau has been the breakout star for the Bandits thus far with four goals and seven points in three games. Brooks is coming off back to back huge wins over Calgary and Olds and will be looking to continue that trend with a pair of games. Saturday will be the rematch against Okotoks with the Bandits looking for a better fate then they had in their season opening game. Both Alex Horawski (1-1) and Tony Rehrm (1-0) have gotten starts between the pipes. Brooks boasted the highest goals for/goals against difference early on this season and tied for the second fewest goals allowed.

Calgary Canucks (2-1-1 5 pts) 1st in the South
Last week: 4-2 win vs. Olds (Sept 16th), 3-2 OT loss (Sept 17th), 4-3 win vs. Drumheller (Sept 19th), 4-2 loss vs. Whitecourt (Sept 21st)
Scheduled games this weekend: Saturday vs. Camrose, Sunday at Mustangs
The Canucks haven't had a lot of scoring, but Matthew Painchaud (1 goal and 3 assists 4 pts) has led the team in scoring. After four games 14 of 23 players on the Canucks roster have at least one point. Defensively the Canucks have been amongst the best in the league, led by Logan Drackett (2-0-1) between the pipes.  Caiden Kreitz got his first start between the pipes in a 4-2 loss on Wednesday. The Canucks will get another test on Saturday when they welcome the Camrose Kodiaks before getting their first crack at cross town rivals Calgary Mustangs on Sunday.

Calgary Mustangs (0-2-0 0 pts) 8th in the South
Last week: 6-0 loss at Canmore (Sept 16th), 8-1 loss at Brooks (Sept 17th)
Scheduled games this weekend: Friday at Drumheller, Sunday vs. Canucks
It's been another tough start to the season for the Calgary Mustangs who scored just one goal in their first two games while giving up 98 shots. A positive for the Calgary is their two goalies did everything they could to keep the team in the games and if the offense can come around thing might turn around for the team. Either Calgary or Drumheller will be able to earn their first win of the season when the two teams meet up on Friday night. The Mustangs will then play their home opener on Sunday night against the Calgary Canucks.

Camrose Kodiaks (2-0-0 4 pts) tied for 2nd in the South
Last week: 6-4 win vs. Drumheller (Sept 16th), 6-1 win vs. Okotoks (Sept 17th)
Scheduled games this weekend: Friday at Okotoks, Saturday at Calgary Canucks
After a stellar home opener weekend for the Kodiaks that saw them come away with a pair of wins, the team now hits the road to continue their strong start to the season. Liam Motley led Camrose through the opening weekend posting three goals and four assists for seven points. Last weekend 13 of the 21 roster players for the Kodiaks got onto the score sheet. Meanwhile between the pipes Joseph May and Patrick Gora split duties in goal with May yielding just one goal while Gora gave up four. Friday will be a rematch with the Okotoks Oilers, and the Kodiaks know that there will be a stronger effort from the Oilers then there was last Saturday. That will be followed up with an early season battle for first place in the South on Saturday at the Max Bell Center.

Canmore Eagles (2-0-0 4 pts) tied for 2nd in the South
Last week: 6-0 win vs. Mustangs (Sept 16th), 5-3 win vs. Drumheller (Sept 17th)
Scheduled games this weekend: Friday at Fort McMurray, Saturday at Spruce Grove, Sunday at Sherwood Park
Following two straight home wins, last weekend Matt Forchuk (3 goals & 3 assists, 6 pts) bring their 2-0 record on the road to the North division. Despite the six points from Forchuk, the Eagles would also spread out the scoring with 12 of 18 players getting onto the score sheet. Between the pipes, Ryan Bontorin played in both games giving up just 3 goals to lead the Eagles to a 2-0 start. Canmore will be the first team to play three games in 2.5 days as they travel to Fort Mac before a pair of games in the Edmonton region. Canmore will hope that they can continue their perfect start to the season as they hit the road.

Drumheller Dragons (0-2-1 1 pt) 7th in the South
Last week: 6-4 loss at Camrose (Sept 16th), 5-3 loss at Canmore (Sept 17th), 4-3 OT loss at Canucks (Sept 19th)
Scheduled games this weekend: Friday vs. Calgary Mustangs, Saturday vs. Whitecourt
After starting the season with a three game road trip that saw the Dragons get just one point the team is hoping to turn things around when they come home to the Memorial Arena for a pair of games. There were some positives from the first week of the regular season, Jordan Taupert led the team with two goals and three assists for five points, and 12 of 20 players would get points in the first three games. Between the pipes, Hunter Virostek went 0-2 in his two starts while Dane Dow would get the start in the overtime loss to the Canucks. Both goaltenders have similar numbers. Expect the Dragons to right the ship and will get an opportunity to do that on Friday in their home opener against the Calgary Mustangs.

Okotoks Oilers (1-1-0 2 pts) tied for 5th in the South
Last week: 2-1 win at Brooks (Sept 16th), 6-1 loss at Camrose (Sept 17th)
Scheduled games this weekend: Friday vs. Camrose, Saturday vs. Brooks
This weekend will see a pair of rematches for the Okotoks Oilers as they play their home opener. The offense was difficult to come by for the Oilers last weekend that saw them score just three goals, but it was good enough to split their first two games. Between the pipes Riley Morris had an outstanding first game stopping 40 shots to help Okotoks to a 2-1 victory over Brooks. Unfortunately, Morris would struggle in the second start of the season and was pulled in the second period for Matthew Armitage. Okotoks knew it would be tough with their first four games coming against Camrose and Brooks, but what a way for the rookies to audition to be a part of the team.

Olds Grizzlys (1-2-0 2 pts) tied for 5th in the South
Last week: 4-2 loss at Canucks (Sept 16th), 3-2 OT win vs. Canucks (Sept 17th), 7-2 loss vs. Brooks (Sept 20th)
Scheduled games this weekend: Saturday vs. Sherwood Park
Olds snapped a 19 game losing streak (overlapping seasons) with a 3-2 win over the Calgary Canucks last Saturday. Unfortunately, they were unable to build off that win, falling to Brooks. Ten of 20 players got points in the Grizzlys first three games. Ben Giesbrecht got the start in all three games to start the season posting a 1-2 record with a 3.91 GAA and .890 save%. With just one game this weekend the Grizzlys are hoping to get back to .500 and keep pace in the middle of the pack when they host the Crusaders. Saturday will be the final game for Olds before Showcase Weekend.

Story by
Chris Colwell