AJHL Weekend Preview – Thanksgiving Weekend

Photo – Pro Sports Photography:

Story By Chris Colwell @Cjcolwell

It's a fairly busy start to the Thanksgiving weekend with 14 games on Friday and Saturday.

Bonnyville Pontiacs (5-2-0 10 pts) 4th in the North

Last Week: 4-2 win at Fort McMurray (Sept 28th) 5-1 win vs. Calgary

Mustangs (Sept 30th), 6-3 loss at Calgary Canucks (Oct 1st)

Scheduled this weekend: Friday vs. Drayton Valley, Sunday vs. Lloydminster

Friday will mark the first match up of the season between Bonnyville and Drayton Valley.  20 year olds Erik Donald, Alden Dupuis and Ryan Symington might lead with a combined 26 points. However, the offense continues to be spread out fairly equally throughout the team with the rest of the team combining for 63 points. Between the pipes, Head Coach Rick Swan continues to roll with three goalies and all three are putting up nearly equal numbers with the odd goalie out being Matteo Esposito who is 1-1 with a 5.14 GAA and 0.852 save %. Josh Williams is 2-0 with a 1.50 GAA, and 0.955 save % while Sandro Silvestre is 2-1 with a 1.89 GAA and 0.898 save %. Following Saturday's game, the Pontiacs will take on the Lloydminster Bobcats for the third time this season. The first two games went to Bonnyville by scores of 6-3 and 4-1.

Drayton Valley Thunder (2-4-1 5 pts) tied for 6th in the North

Last Week: 3-2 SOL at Drumheller (Sept 29th), 7-2 loss vs. Canmore (Sept 30th), 2-1 loss vs. Spruce Grove (Oct 5th)

Scheduled this weekend: Friday at Bonnyville

Drayton Valley has lost their last five games after starting the season with back to back wins. Michael Cardinal and Rhett Wilcox lead the team with 6 points each. Between the pipes Joseph McLeod is 2-2-1 with a 3.79 GAA and 0.882 save% while Parker Tobin is 0-2 with a 5.83 GAA and 0.848 save %. Discipline will be key for the Thunder if they want to turn things around. Their Penalty kill is 15th in the AJHL killing off 15 of 26 (65.38%) penalties against while their power play has also struggled going 3 for 27 (11.11%) and is ranked 13th.

Fort McMurray Oil Barons (6-2-0 12 pts) tied for 2nd in the North

Last Week: 4-2 loss vs. Bonnyville (Sept 24th), 4-2 win at Brooks (Sept 30th), 5-4 SOW vs. Drumheller (Oct 1st)

Scheduled this weekend: Friday vs. Lloydminster, Saturday vs. Lloydminster

Fort McMurray is coming off two victories at Showcase Weekend in Camrose and look to continue that momentum when they take on the winless Bobcats for the second and third time this season. The two teams met on September 24th. Eric Szudor made 16 saves for the shutout while Curtis Roach scored the game winning goal and added an assist. JC Thivierge and Taner Miller lead the team with nine points in eight games. Like Bonnyville, the Oil Barons have also spread out the scoring with 20 of 22 players on the roster recording at least one point. In goal Eric Szudor is 3-2 with a 2.09 GAA and 0.917 save % while Forbes Ploszaj is 3-0 with a 2.16 GAA and 0.925 save %.

Grande Prairie Storm (2-4-1 5 pts) tied for 6th in the North

Last week: 5-4 OTL at Camrose (Sept 30th), 3-2 loss vs. Olds (Oct 1st), 7-2 loss at Whitecourt (Oct 2nd)

Scheduled this weekend: Friday vs. Camrose, Saturday vs. Spruce Grove

Grande Prairie will be glad to be home at Revolution Arena where they have a 2-0 record. The Storm have lost three in a row coming into the weekend. Michael Clarke leads the team with eight points in seven games. Colby Tower and Dallas Comeau are tied for second on the team with six points. Eric Jackson has seen the most action between the pipes posting a 1-3-1 record with a 5.55 GAA and 0.853 save% while Arik Weersink is 1-1 with a 2.31 GAA 0.853 save%. The Storm have had the fewest power play chances in the AJHL. They will need to be disciplined as the Storm have killed off just 17 of 27 (62.96%) which is last in the AJHL. Head to head the Storm fell in overtime while their matchup with Spruce Grove will be the first of six meetings between the two teams.

Lloydminster Bobcats (0-7-0 0 pts) 8th in the North

Last week: 2-1 loss vs. Okotoks (Sept 30th), 4-2 loss at Calgary Mustangs (Oct 1st)

Scheduled this weekend: Friday at Fort McMurray, Saturday at Fort McMurray, Sunday at Bonnyville

Last weekend the Bobcats were oh so close to earning their first win of the season at Showcase weekend, but lost both games, and the scheduled doesn't get any easier with two games against Fort McMurray and one more against Bonnyville. Lloydminster has already played the Pontiacs twice and the Oil Barons once, falling in all three games by a combined score of 15-4. The offense has been hard to come by for the Bobcats who have scored just nine goals in seven games this season. In goal Jeremy Kelleway and Austin McGrath have done everything they can to keep Lloydminster close. Kelleway is 0-3 with a 4.53 GAA and 0.855 save% while McGrath is 0-4 with a 4.71 GAA and 0.849 save%. Special teams the Bobcats are 1 for 38 (2.63%) 16th on the power play and are 17 for 23 (73.91%) which is 12th in the league.

Sherwood Park Crusaders (4-5-0 8 pts) 5th in the North

Last week: 3-1 loss vs. Spruce Grove (Sept 28th), 5-3 loss at Okotoks (Sept 29th), 5-4 SOW vs. Brooks (Oct 1st), 7-3 loss at Whitecourt (Oct 4th)

Scheduled this weekend: Friday at Canmore, Saturday at Calgary Canucks

Matthew Dykstra leads the team with 13 points in nine games so far this season. Tanner Younghans, Tyler Maltby, and Alex Rotundo are also averaging a point per game for the Crusaders. In goal Zac Klassen and Dorian Laganiere-Labranche have similar numbers. Klassen has posted a 3-4 record with a 3.88 GAA and 0.895 save% while Laganiere-Labranche is 1-1 with a 3.93 GAA and 0.900 save%. Sherwood Park continues to be a riddle as at times they can score at will and keep high powered offenses in check and then other times they can't seem to get any breaks offensively or defensively. A key for the Crusaders will be staying out of the penalty box as they are the most penalized team in the North being shorthanded 44 times, third to just the Canucks and Brooks.

Spruce Grove Saints (7-1-1 15 pts) 1st in the North

Last week: 3-1 win at Sherwood Park (Sept 28th), 3-2 OTW at Canmore (Sept 29th), 1-0 OTL vs. Camrose (Oct 1st), 2-1 win at Drayton Valley (Oct 5th)

Scheduled this week: Friday vs. Whitecourt, Saturday at Grande Prairie

Cody Young leads the Saints with 11 points in nine games. Spruce Grove has spread the scoring out throughout their line with 21 of 24 registering at least one point. Head to Head it will be the first time this season that the Saints have played Whitecourt and Grande Prairie. In goal, the Saints seem to be as strong as ever. Nolan Kent is 4-1-1 with a 1.47 GAA 0.932 save%, Connor Dochuk is 2-0 with a 1.48 GAA and 0.948 save% while Michael Barbash is 1-0 with a 5.16 GAA and 0.882 save %. Spruce Grove has given up the second fewest goals this season with 19, only Fort McMurray has given up less (18). Spruce Grove bolsters the second best penalty kill (35 for 38) 92.11%, only the Kodiaks have a better kill rate (92.68%).

Whitecourt Wolverines (5-2-2 12 pts) tied for 2nd in the North

Last week: 3-2 OTW at Olds (Sept 29th), 6-2 loss vs. Calgary Canucks (Sept 30th), 7-2 win vs. Grande Prairie (Oct 2nd), 7-3 win vs. Sherwood Park (Oct 4th)

Scheduled games this weekend: Friday at Spruce Grove, Saturday vs. Camrose

Bryson Traptow and the Wolverines offense seems to have hit their stride with 14 goals in their last two games. Traptow leads the team in points with 18 points in nine games. With the offense clicking, 18 of 21 players that have played at least one game have points this season for the Wolverines. Both goalies have similar numbers for Whitecourt. Aaron Mackay is 3-1-1 with a 3.35 GAA 0.878 save% while Pierce Diamond is 2-1-1 with a 3.28 GAA 0.862 save%. The Wolverines boast the league's best power play connecting on 14 of 36 opportunities for 38.89%. Whitecourt has also been stellar on the penalty kill going 36 for 42 for 85.71% kill rate which is 4th best in the AJHL. Head to head it will be the first of six meetings of the season between Spruce Grove, and Saturday will be the first of two meetings against Camrose.

Brooks Bandits (5-2-2 12 pts) tied for 2nd in the South

Last week: 2-0 win vs. Calgary Canucks (Sept 28th), 4-2 loss vs. Fort McMurray (Sept 30th), 5-4 SOL at Sherwood Park (Oct 1st), 3-2 win vs. Olds (Oct 5th).

Scheduled games this weekend: Saturday at Okotoks

For the third time this season the Brooks Bandits will take on the Okotoks Oilers and will look for their first win against their divisional rivals. Tyrell Mappin leads the team in points with 12 while rookie Oliver Chau is second on the team with 11 points. In the previous two meetings the Oilers were able to hold the high powered Brooks offense in check edging them 2-1 in both games. If the Bandits are going to earn their first win of the season against Okotoks, they will have to find a way to beat Riley Morris. In goal Alex Horawksi and Tony Rehm haven't been overly tested. Horawski is 3-2 with a 1.79 GAA, and 0.916 save% while Tony Rehm is 2-0-2 with a 2.17 GAA and 0.902 save %.

Calgary Canucks (6-2-1 13 pts) 1st in the South

Last week: 2-0 loss at Brooks (Sept 28th),  6-2 win at Whitecourt (Sept 30th), 6-3 win vs. Bonnyville (Oct 1st)

Scheduled games this weekend: Friday at Drumheller, Saturday vs. Sherwood Park

The Calgary Canucks continue to surprise as they hold first place in the South Division, a position they haven't held this late in the season since 1998-99 season. 20 year olds Matthew Painchaud (12 points), Allan MacPherson (10 pts), and Ben Assad (10 pts) lead the team offensively. In goal Logan Drackett is 5-1-1 with a t2.52 GAA and 0.897 save%. Caiden Kreitz is 0-1 with a 4.14 GAA and 0.871 save%, and Ryan Ternes is 1-0 with a 5.00 GAA and 0.861 save%. The one drawback for the Canucks this season has been their power play which is ranked 10th going 9 for 56 (16.07%) while their PK is ranked 9th killing off 37 of 48 power plays against.

Calgary Mustangs (1-7-0 2 pts) 8th in the South

Last week: 5-3 loss vs. Okotoks (Sept 27th), 5-1 loss at Bonnyville (Sept 30th), 4-2 win vs. Lloydminster (Oct 1st), 8-0 loss vs. Canmore (Oct 4th)

Scheduled this weekend: Saturday at Drumheller

After an 0-6 September, it looked like things might turn around for the Mustangs who started October earning their first win of the season but unfortunately, for the Mustangs they would get trounced 8-0 on Tuesday. Kylor Wall leads the team with seven points in eight games. After that the offense drops off as the Mustangs have scored just 16 goals this season which is second fewest (Lloydminster 9). In goal, it's been a rough start to the season for Cole Hayward and Bailey Brkin. Hayward is 1-3 with a 4.00 GAA and 0.898 save% while Brkin is 0-3 with a 6.40 GAA and 0.876 save%.  The Mustangs power play is ranked 12th going 5 for 37 (13.51%) which is 12th. Up until Tuesday, the Penalty Kill had been decent for the Mustangs but after going 2 for 4 they are now 31 for 41 (75.61%) which puts them 11th.

Camrose Kodiaks (5-1-1 11 pts) tied for 2nd in the South

Last week: 5-3 win vs. Olds (Sept 27th), 5-4 OTW vs. Grande Prairie (Sept 30th), 1-0 OTW at Spruce Grove (Oct 1st)

Scheduled games this weekend: Friday at Grande Prairie, Saturday at Whitecourt

After back to back losses (one in OT) the Kodiaks have rattled off three straight wins led by Mackenzie Bauer and his team leading 11 points. Not to be outdone teammate Liam Motley has 10 points in seven games and is second on the team in scoring while rookie Cooper Johnson has nine points in six games. 18 of 21 players on the roster have at least one point so far this season. Between the pipes Joseph May is 2-0-1 with a 3.09 GAA and 0.911 save% while Patrick Gora is 3-1 with a 3.41 GAA and 0.918 save%. The Kodiaks power play is 5th going 8 for 30 (26.67%) while the Kodiaks boast the league's best penalty kill, going 38 for 41 (92.68%). Friday will be the second meeting in a week with Grande Prairie, the Kodiaks earned a 5-4 overtime win over the Strom at Showcase weekend. Saturday will be the first of two match ups with the Whitecourt Wolverines.

Canmore Eagles (4-3-1 9 pts) 5th in the South

Last week: 3-2 OTL vs. Spruce Grove (Sept 29th), 7-2 win at Drayton Valley (Sept 30th), 8-0 win at Calgary Mustangs (Oct 4th)

Scheduled this weekend: Friday vs. Sherwood Park, Saturday at Olds

For the first time since the opening weekend, the Canmore Eagles will be on home ice. The Eagles are 2-0 at the recreation arena but will only be on home ice for one game before they set out on the road again. Matt Forchuk, Colby Livingstone, Logan Ferguson, Brett Stewart and Braden Saretsky are all averaging a point or better per game this season for the Eagles. Ryan Bontorin has played in all eight games between the pipes and is 4-3-1 with a 3.24 GAA and 0.894 save%.  The Eagles are tied for 5th on the power play going 12 for 45 (26.67%) while their penalty kill is 10th killing off 28 of 37 penalties for a 75.68 kill percentage.

Drumheller Dragons (2-3-2 6 pts) 7th in the South

Last week: 3-2 SOW vs. Drayton Valley (Sept 29th), 5-4 SOL (Oct 1st)

Scheduled games this weekend: Friday vs. Calgary Canucks, Saturday vs. Calgary Mustangs

Drumheller is getting used to playing more than 60 minutes after back to back shootout games at showcase weekend. Jordan Taupert leads the team with 10 points in seven games. The Dragons have spread out the scoring with 17 of 22 players picking up at least one point so far this season. Between the pipes Hunter Virostek is 2-2 with a 3.23 GAA and 0.890 save % while Dane Dow is 0-1-2 with a 3.71 GAA and 0.881 save %. On the power play the Dragons are 9th in the AJHL going 5 for 31 (16.13%) while their penalty kill is 24 for 34 (70.59%) which puts them 14th. Friday will be the first of six meetings between the Canucks and Dragons while Saturday will be the second time they have taken on the Mustangs. Drumheller defeated the Mustangs 4-2 on September 23rd. Leif Mattson scored once and added a helper while Hunter Virostek made 23 saves in the win.

Okotoks Oilers (6-1-0 12 pts) tied for 2nd in the South

Last week: 5-3 win vs. Sherwood Park (Sept 29th), 2-1 win at Lloydminster (Sept 30th)

Scheduled games this weekend: Friday vs. Olds, Saturday vs. Brooks

The Okotoks Oilers return to the Pason Centennial Arena for the first time since September 24th.With the departure of Danton Davis, Tanner Laderoute now leads the Oilers in scoring this season with seven points in seven games. In goal, Matthew Armitage is 2-0 with a 2.34 GAA and 0.910 save% while Riley Morris is 4-1 with a 3.11 GAA and 0.908 save%, Morris has also held the Brooks Bandits in check in their previous two meetings giving up just two goals. Friday will be the first of six meetings between the Oilers and Olds. One thing the Oilers would like to improve on is their power play which is currently 14th going 3 for 40 (7.50%) while their penalty kill is 7th killing off 21 of 25 (84.00%) power plays against.

Olds Grizzlys (3-3-2 8 pts) 6th in the South

Last week: 5-3 loss at Camrose (Sept 27th), 3-2 OTL (Sept 29th), 3-2 win at Grande Prairie (Oct 1st), 3-2 OTL at Brooks (Oct 5th)

Scheduled games this weekend: Friday at Okotoks, Saturday vs. Canmore

For the first time, this season the Olds Grizzlys will meet up with Okotoks and Canmore. The Grizzlys are 1-0-2 in their last three games. Landon Gross leads the team with eight points in eight games. Austin Holmes and Ryley Smith each have six points in eight games this season. Between the pipes, Ben Giesbrecht is 1-3-1 with a 3.20 GAA 0.916 save% while Andrew Henderson is 2-1 with a 4.03 GAA and 0.885 save %. On the power play the Grizzlys have struggled and are 2 for 32 (6.25%) which has them ahead of just Lloydminster. On the penalty kill, Olds is 24 for 33 (72.73%) which has them ranked 13th.